What do I need to do if I want to adopt a child?
The three main options for adopting a child are:
In New Zealand, if you wish to adopt a child you generally have to go through the Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) who will help you go through the following process:
- contact an adoption social worker at Oranga Tamariki (0508 326 459)
- fill out an application form which involves
- providing the names of two people who can act as referees for you
- giving permission for your doctor to provide medical information about you
- giving permission for Oranga Tamariki to do a police check on you
- attend an adoption Education and Preparation Programme so you can learn more about the adoption process
- be interviewed by social workers so they can learn about you and your homelife
- submit a profile of your family for birth parents to consider
- complete a number of consent forms and legal processes, once a birth parent has selected you as the adoptive parents
Birth parents wanting to adopt out their child will choose from a pool of approved applicants. They’ll view the applicants’ profiles and ask to meet the ones they are most interested in.
If you are selected to be adoptive parents for a child, the birth parents sign a consent. You can then apply to the Family Court for an adoption order. The adoption order makes you the legal parent/s of the child. It’s a good idea to get legal advice for this stage of the process. You can find out more about getting an adoption order on the Ministry of Justice website.
You’ll find more information about adopting within New Zealand on the Oranga Tamariki website.
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What costs are involved in the adoption process?
While there is no court filing fee for an adoption order from the Family Court, if you have engaged a lawyer to help you with the application then you will have to pay the costs of your lawyer. You may also have to pay the birth parent’s legal fees. Legal costs will vary, so it’s a good idea to do some research before you choose a lawyer.
If you are adopting from overseas you may also have other costs, for example translation of documents or a caregiver for the child while they are in their own country. If you choose to work directly with an overseas adoption agency rather than through the Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children), you may also have to pay the agency’s fees.
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What do we need to do if we want to adopt a child from overseas?
Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) works with representatives in several countries as well as Inter Country Adoption New Zealand and Compassion for Orphans, and know about the different rules and requirements which each country has in relation to adoption. Most countries require that children be adopted by couples rather than individuals.
If you are thinking of adopting a child from overseas, contact Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459. They can tell you when their next group information session is being held, to advise interested couples on what is involved in the adoption process.
At the group information session you can ask for an application form which you’ll need to complete if you wish to proceed.
As with adopting within New Zealand, you would need to provide references and other evidence to show that you would be suitable adoptive parents. You would also have to attend an adoption education and preparation programme and a series of assessment interviews.
If you’re considered suitable, your Oranga Tamariki social worker will prepare a Home Study Assessment Report which will be sent to Oranga Tamariki. If Oranga Tamariki approves your application, it will be forwarded to the authorities in the country you’ve chosen. If the authorities in that country approve your application and can identify a child who would benefit from becoming part of your family they will get back to Oranga Tamariki.
Oranga Tamariki will also work with Immigration New Zealand and the Department of Internal Affairs regarding the child’s residency and citizenship.
You can get more details about the process of adopting a child from overseas on the Oranga Tamariki website.
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What do I need to consider if I'm thinking of adopting my wife’s son from her previous marriage?
As a stepparent you don’t legally have a say in how the child is brought up because you are not his guardian. If you formally adopt him, then you become his guardian.
If you wish to adopt your stepson you’ll need to have his mother’s (your wife’s) consent. Unless your wife is the child’s sole guardian, you’ll also need the consent of the birth father.
You can then go to the Family Court to apply for an adoption order. The Court will ask a social worker to write a report about you, which is likely to include interviews with you, your step-child and the birthparent.
Another option you can consider is applying for guardianship of your step child instead.
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What is whāngai adoption and how is it different from other types of adoption?
Whāngai is a Māori customary adoption, when a child is raised by members of the whānau. It’s not a formal adoption so it’s generally not recognised by New Zealand law.
A whāngai adoption is recognized with regards to succession to Māori land, and whāngai parents (matua whāngai) of a child aged under six years can apply for paid parental leave for the period of time when the child begins living with them.
However a child of a whāngai adoption (a tamaiti whāngai) can’t challenge a Will under the Family Protection Act.
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I’m raising my grandchild because the parents can’t - am I entitled to any financial assistance or any other support to help me?
If you are raising someone else’s child, you may be eligible for financial assistance.
- You can apply for the Unsupported Child’s Benefit if you are caring for a child (aged under 18 years) because of a breakdown in the family. You will be required to apply for child support from the child’s parents, as this money will go to the government to help cover the benefit. This benefit is not means-tested.
- You can apply for the Orphan’s Benefit if the parents of the child (aged under 18 years) have died, can’t be found, or have a long term illness which prevents them from looking after the child. This benefit is not means-tested.
- If you are already on a benefit you may be able to get increased payments from Work and Income to cover the extra cost of caring for the child (or you can apply for one of the above benefits).
- If you are working or receiving New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension, you may be eligible for Working for Families Tax Credits from Inland Revenue.
More information about financial assistance from Work and Income is on their website.
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If you became the primary carer on or after 1 April 2016 of a child aged under six, and you have had to stop working to care for the child, you may be entitled to parental leave payments.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ has a handbook for grandparents in your situation. They also run support groups.
How do I find out who my birth parents are?
Once you are over the age of twenty, you have the right to information about your adoption.
You can start by requesting a copy of your original birth certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages, which may show the name of your birth parents. It will cost about $15.
(Note that for adoptions which occurred before 1986, one or both birth parents’ names may not be available because the parent placed a “veto” on the information. A veto expires after ten years and can be renewed for a further ten years. You can still receive a copy of your birth certificate but the “veto” parent won’t be included on it)
If you were adopted before 1 March 1986 and are living in New Zealand, then the Adult Adoption Information Act requires that you also choose a counselor and the certificate will be sent to your counselor. This is so that you can get advice and assistance from the counselor when you get the certificate. The requirement for you to have a counselor does not apply if you live overseas.
If you were adopted after 1 March 1986 you’ll still be offered counselling but you can ask for your birth certificate to be sent directly to you.
You can also ask Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) to see any records they have about your adoption. Call them on 0508 326 459 for a “Section 9” application form. You will need to give them a copy of your original birth certificate along with the completed form.
Information about tracking down birth parents is on our Family History page.
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I am pregnant and want to adopt out my baby after the birth. How do I do this?
You can call Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) on 0508 326 459 to talk to an adoption social worker about your options.
You will need to get consent from the birth father to put your baby up for adoption - unless he is not a guardian of the child (i.e. he has not lived with you at any time during the pregnancy or his name is not on the birth registration.)
Once you embark on the adoption process, you’ll get to choose adoptive parents from a selection of personal profiles. When you’ve chosen the adoptive parents for your baby, you will be encouraged to think about what you might want to discuss with them. Oranga Tamariki recommends that you wait until the child has been born and you’ve had to time to think about it further, before you meet the adoptive parents.
Your baby must be at least 12 days old before you can give consent to the adoption.
It is illegal for people to advertise that they want to adopt a child, or to offer to pay money for the right to adopt a child.
If you have someone in mind to be adoptive parents of your child, you should still contact Oranga Tamariki so that they can support you through the process, and make sure your child will be in good hands.
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Are there any support groups for birth mothers or adoptive parents?
There are local support groups which provide information and support to adoptive or birth parents. Your local CAB can also help you find a support group in your area.
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What’s involved in fostering a child?
Fostering is when you care for a child who can’t live with their own family. It’s a care arrangement, not a legal arrangement - this means you’re responsible for caring for the child but you don’t have any legal rights over them.
Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) and a number of community organisations arrange foster care situations, and other caring arrangements. See the list on the Fostering New Zealand website.
In order to become foster parents, you must be trained and approved by the recruiting agency (Oranga Tamariki or community organisation). You will need to complete an application form and agree to:
- a police check
- provide full proof of identity
- a full medical report from your doctor
- provide names and addresses of two referees
- take part in personal interviews, one of which will be in your home
If you become foster parents (caregivers) through Oranga Tamariki, you will usually be paid a government-funded allowance to help cover the child’s costs, and receive support from social workers.
You can find out more about fostering through Oranga Tamariki by calling 0508 CARERS (0508 227 377), or about fostering in general by visiting the Fostering New Zealand website.