For some couples the reality of infertility is that nothing seems to work. However that doesn’t mean that they cannot have a family. While New Zealand doesn’t have an adoption culture similar to that of the United States where approximately 135,000 children are adopted annually adoption and fostering are still an option for New Zealand families.
So what’s the difference between fostering and adoption? Foster care normally refers to short term or temporary care of a child who is under Child, Youth and Families guardianship. A child comes into your home for a period of time before being returned to their families or placed in a more suitable or permanent situation. There is sometimes an opportunity to become a foster child’s legal guardian and remove them from under CYFs care however it isn’t an option with all children.
Under the right circumstances you may have the chance to become a foster child’s guardian under CYF’s ‘home for life’ program. While CYFs are no longer the child’s guardian they offer continued support under a plan that is reviewed after three years. Becoming a child’s legal guardian involves a potentially lengthy court process however Child, Youth and Family will pay agreed legal costs.
The fostering process can be an emotional rollercoaster as having children come in and out of your life can be difficult. Keep an eye out for my interview with a long term foster parent and guardian of former foster children later this year for a more in depth look into life as a foster parent.
Adoption on the other hand is when a child is placed in your care permanently and all parental rights and abilities are transferred to you as the adoptive parent. Most adoptions in New Zealand are open, meaning the biological family of the child are involved in the life of the child while you as the adoptive parents still hold all rights and responsibilities. There are some cases of closed adoptions, where a child has no access to their biological parents however they aren’t as common.
All formal adoptions in New Zealand are handled by Child, Youth and Family and the vast majority of adoptions are arranged before the birth of the child. Once the baby is born the birth mother registers the birth and then the adoption paperwork is finalised. Adoptive parents are required to pay all legal fees for the birth parents during the adoption process.
If you would like to adopt a New Zealand born child the first step is registering with Child, Youth and Family. There are very few New Zealand born children that need adoption each year and countless families wishing to find a new addition. For this reason the wait alone to become a perspective adoptive parent can be heartbreaking. Once you’ve registered with Child, Youth and Family you need to complete the vetting process which involves providing references, medical information and a police check. You will then need to complete an Education and Preparation Programme which involves regular meetings with social workers.
Once this process is complete it’s time to create your adoption profile. This profile will be used by birth parents to decide who they believe will be the best fit for their children. Once they have created a short list most birth parents like to meet with prospective adoptive parents before making a final decision. If this goes well the legal side of adoption comes into play and consent forms and legal documents need to be signed. It is at this stage that you will pay not only for your own legal fees but for the legal fees of the birth parents.
Once your adoption is finalised and you have your brand new bundle of joy you can expect ongoing support from Child, Youth and Family while you settle into family life. There are also countless other organisations around New Zealand including New Zealand Open Adoption Network (OPAN) and Inter Country Adoption New Zealand (ICANZ) that offer support to new adoptive parents.
Families looking into adoption also have the ability to research overseas adoption. There are countless children in countries around the world living without families and some countries have open lines of communication regarding adoption with New Zealand that makes the process of overseas adoption a little easier. Child, Youth and Family work directly with seven countries on global adoptions. However the global adoption process is long and changes to law and legislation can sometimes mean that an adoption is postponed or even stopped completely part way through the process.
Different countries have different rules regarding adoption and some countries may refuse you the right to adopt due to marital status, age, income level or gender. If you are considering a global adoption the best first step is to contact Child, Youth and Family, ICANZ or Compassion for Orphans for more information and the support of an adoption social worker.
Regardless of how you choose to do it bringing a child who is not biologically yours into your family is a rewarding and emotional process. Not all fosters and adoptions have happy endings however for some families they find the missing piece of their family puzzle and with the correct support from agencies and their extended family create a happy family unit. Have you or anybody you know fostered or adopted? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.