Government consulting on adoption laws

Wed 28 Jul 2021

The Government is reviewing adoption laws. The review involves public engagement about how adoption laws could change to meet the values and needs of Aotearoa New Zealand in 2021 and beyond.

The Government is asking for feedback about Aotearoa New Zealand's adoption laws and systems to help inform how the laws should change.

The closing date to give feedback is 31 August 2021.

The review is asking for feedback on six key issues:

  • what is adoption and who is involved
  • cultural aspects of adoption (including whāngai)
  • how the adoption process works in Aotearoa New Zealand and offshore
  • the impacts of adoption
  • how the adoption process works where a child is born by surrogacy.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is leading the review. MOJ has published a Discussion Document on Adoption in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Discussion Document states:

"While practice has changed over time, the law is largely the same now as it was when it came into force, reflecting the values and attitudes of the 1950s. It doesn’t reflect modern adoption practices or fully align with the direction of domestic and international human rights obligations. It also fails to promote children’s rights in the adoption process, which can place their wellbeing at risk. There is no acknowledgement of a child’s culture, and the cultural needs and practices of those involved in the adoption process."

The Discussion document outlines 6 objectives for the review:

"1. To modernise and consolidate Aotearoa New Zealand’s adoption laws to reflect contemporary adoption processes, meet societal needs and expectations, and promote consistency with principles in child-centred legislation.

2. To ensure that children’s rights are at the heart of Aotearoa New Zealand’s adoption laws and practice, and that children’s rights, best interests and welfare are safeguarded and promoted throughout the adoption process, including the right to identity and access to information.

3. To ensure that adoption laws and practice meet our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and reflect culturally appropriate concepts and principles, in particular, tikanga Māori, where applicable.

4. To ensure appropriate support and information is available to those who require it throughout the adoption process and following an adoption being finalised, including information about past adoptions.

5. To improve the timeliness, cost and efficiency of adoption processes where a child is born by surrogacy, whilst ensuring the rights and interests of those children are upheld.

6. To ensure Aotearoa meets all of its relevant international obligations, particularly those in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption."

Oranga Tamariki will work closely with MOJ and other agencies on the review. The Oranga Tamariki media release notes that "Oranga Tamariki plays a key role in the adoption process, from engaging with birth parents who want to place their child for adoption, to assessing and approving adoptive applicants seeking to adopt both domestically and intercountry, reporting to the Court and responding to requests for information from parties to an adoption."

The media release announcing the review noted that "Targeted engagement with specific communities, including people affected by adoption, will run alongside public engagement."

There will be a second round of consultation in mid-2022 to seek public views on proposals for reform.

The Discussion Document and a Summary Document are available on the MOJ website in alternate formats and different languages.

You can give feedback through:

Related news

Te Aka Matua o te Ture | The Law Commission is reviewing law related to surrogacy in Aotearoa New Zealand. MOJ noted that "As part of this review, the Commission will look at how the adoption process operates in surrogacy arrangements and consider whether there should be a different process for intending parents to become legal parents." The Law Commission will be consulting with the public on surrogacy in August 2021. For more information see the Law Commission's Te Kōpū Whāngai: He Arotake | Review of Surrogacy website.

Update: The Law Commission has published the final report, Te Kōpū Whāngai: He Arotake | Review of Surrogacy (2022). The Commission concluded that surrogacy law is out of date and acknowledges a pressing need for reform. The report makes 63 recommendations to establish a new framework for determining legal parenthood in surrogacy arrangements and improve surrogacy law and practice.

In June 2021, the Social Security (Financial Assistance for Caregivers) Amendment Act 2021 was enacted to support caregivers looking after children outside of the state care system to access financial assistance. 

Related media

Reconnecting adoptees to their taha Māori, Te Ao Māori News, 29.07.2021

Maori adoptions offer lessons for all, Waatea, 28.06.2021

Adoption law update looks at whāngai, Waatea News, 21.06.2021

New Zealand's adoption laws under review, public consultation announced, NZ Herald, 18.06.2021

Image: Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash

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