Adoption & fostering 

What will 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 Child, Youth and Family (CYF). If you decide that you would like to adopt a child, you will have to:

  • contact the Adoption Services team at CYF
  • 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 CYF 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 

If CYF approves your application to adopt, you can then proceed with applying to the Family Court for an adoption order. 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 this Ministry of Justice website.

To talk to someone about the process, or to start the adoption process, contact the Adoption Service office of Child Youth and Family. You can find the nearest branch online.   

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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.

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What do I need to do if I wish to adopt a child from overseas?

You would contact the Adoption Service office of Child Youth and Family. They work 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.

As with adopting within New Zealand, you would need to provide references and other evidence to show that you would be suitable adoptive parents, and attend an adoption education and preparation programme.

The assessment of you will be sent to agencies in the country that you are approved to adopt from, and if they can identify a child who would benefit from becoming part of your family they will send information about them back to (CYF).

You can read more about the process of adopting a child from overseas, on the Child Youth and Family website.

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How do I adopt my nephew or niece from overseas and bring him or her to New Zealand?

First you need to contact Child, Youth and Family Adoption Services about your intention to adopt the child. They can tell you what is involved and help you through the adoption process.

If you are a New Zealand citizen, you will also need to contact the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) about obtaining New Zealand citizenship for the child (unless they are already a New Zealand citizen). More about this is on the DIA website.

If you are a New Zealand resident (rather than a citizen), you will need to apply for a residence for the child. More information about bringing an adopted child to New Zealand is on the Immigration New Zealand website.

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How do I go about adopting my wife’s son from a previous marriage?

If you are a step parent you won’t automatically become the child’s guardian. This means that you don’t legally have a say in how the child is brought up. If you formally adopt the child then you effectively become their parent.

You’ll need to have the consent of the birth mother, and generally that of the birth father as well (unless the mother is the child's sole guardian).

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.

Adoption of a step-child or surrogate child generally takes less time to process compared to other kinds of adoptions.

Another option you can consider is applying for guardianship over your step child.

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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 (except with regards to succession to Māori land).

For example: 

  • a child of a whāngai adoption (the tamaiti whāngai) can’t challenge a Will and make a claim under the Family Protection Act.  
  • Until 1 April 2016, whāngai parents (matua whāngai) of a child aged under six years weren’t entitled to paid parental leave for the period of time when the child first went to live with them. 

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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.

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.

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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 ask Child, Youth and Family Adoption Services to see any adoption records they have about your adoption.

You can also request a copy of your original birth certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages, which may show the name of your birth parents

You can do this by filling in a Request for Pre-adoptive New Zealand Birth Certificate (BEM451) and sending it to Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM). 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 but can be renewed for a further ten years.)

If you live outside of New Zealand, the certificate will be sent straight to you. If you are living in New Zealand and one or both birth parents are named on the certificate, then the Adult Adoption Information Act requires that you also choose a counsellor and the certificate will be sent to your counsellor. This is so that you can get advice and assistance from the counsellor when you get the certificate. 

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 Child, Youth and Family Services to talk to someone about your options on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459), or contact the nearest Child, Youth and Family Adoption Services office.

You will need to get consent from the birth father (unless he is not a guardian of the child) to put your baby up for adoption.

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. Child, Youth and Family 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.
It’s worth knowing that as the birth mother you have to wait until your baby is 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 know someone to whom you want to adopt your child, you can inform Child Youth and Family.

More information on adopting out your child is on the Child, Youth and Family Services website.

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Are there any support groups for birth mothers or adoptive parents?

Birth Mums Support Network provides support to women who are thinking of placing their baby for adoption.

There are also 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 status – this means you’re responsible for caring for the child but you don’t have any legal rights over them.

If you become foster parents (“caregivers”) through Child, Youth and Family, you will usually be paid a government-funded allowance to help cover the child’s costs, and receive support from social workers.

To become a caregiver, you will be trained and approved by Child, Youth and Family Services. The process takes two to three months. 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

You can find out more about fostering through Child, Youth and Family Services by checking their website.

Barnardos also arranges foster care situations.