Government seeking feedback on options for creating a new adoption system

The Ministry of Justice - Te Tāhu o te Ture has today unveiled a range of options aimed at putting the rights and best interests of children at the heart of a new adoption system.

The Ministry held its first round of public consultation last year. Deputy Secretary Policy Rajesh Chhana said the Government now wanted to hear again from the public about some options it is considering for a new adoption system.

“Last year, the Ministry of Justice heard from over 270 people and organisations, and met with over 25 individuals and groups,” Mr Chhana said.

“The Government listened closely to the views and experiences that people shared with us and, drawing on that insight, has developed options for a more open and inclusive adoption system.”

The options, outlined in a discussion document, A new adoption system for Aotearoa New Zealand, include:

  • a child-centred purpose for adoption
  • ensuring legal connections to adoptive and birth whānau
  • supporting children and birth family and whānau to take part in the process
  • supporting contact agreements to keep children connected to their birth family and whānau
  • creating automatic access to information on an original birth record
  • recognising and supporting the adopted person to be connected to their birth culture.

“The new adoption system would listen to children more and support them to take part in the adoption process. It would also recognise that culture, whakapapa and family connection are a key part of a person’s identity.”

“The options aren’t a final package of proposals – we want to hear what people agree or don’t agree with, and if they have any other ideas for reform of the adoption system,” Mr Chhana said.

The public can have their say from today (20 June) until 7 August 2022. The Ministry will also be engaging with specific communities about the options, including people impacted by adoption, Māori and Pacific communities.

The Ministry is also seeking further and specific feedback from Māori on whether whāngai should be legally recognised, and if so, how.

The discussion document has been translated into five languages and produced in a summary and accessible format for disabled communities. It has been published on the Ministry website along with information on how to make a submission, at:

Adoption law reform: Options for creating a new system

Options relating to surrogacy have not been included in the discussion document. The Government will be considering Te Aka Matua o te Ture - the Law Commission’s recent recommendations for reforming surrogacy laws separately.

The Ministry of Justice will provide advice to the Government on final adoption law reform proposals by the end of the year.

Media Contact:
Paul Easton 04 918 8836

Questions and answers

Why do we need to change our adoption law?

Aotearoa New Zealand's Adoption Act no longer meets the needs of our society or reflects modern adoption best practice. This reform presents an opportunity to create a new system that provides strong safeguards for protecting the rights, best interests and welfare of children. It will also allow us to ensure we uphold our international human rights obligations.

We need to change our adoption laws to make sure our tamariki are at the heart. The public’s thoughts and ideas will play an important part in helping to get our adoption laws right.

Our adoption laws need to align with culturally appropriate concepts and principles as applicable, particularly tikanga Māori. We also need to ensure adequate support and information is available to people before, during and after an adoption.

The Ministry of Justice carried out a first round of public and targeted engagement between July and November 2021. The Ministry heard from over 270 people and organisations and met with over 25 individuals and groups with a direct interest in adoption. Officials heard that the current law has caused harm, and many people agreed change is needed.

What will the reform of adoption law focus on?

In the first round of engagement, the Ministry of Justice heard how different parts of the adoption system were causing harm to adopted children, family and whānau. The reform will consider all aspects of how adoptions occur in Aotearoa New Zealand, including:

  • The purpose and guiding principles of adoption
  • Who can be adopted
  • Who can adopt
  • The process of placing a child for adoption
  • Who can have a say on the adoption
  • Who makes adoption decision, and how they’re made
  • The legal effect of adoption
  • What type of contact birth families should have with adopted children
  • Access to support
  • Access to adoption information
  • Reversing and changing an adoption order
  • Overseas and intercountry adoptions

What are some key options the Government is considering for reform?

  • A child-centred purpose for adoption
  • Guiding principles ensure that children’s rights are upheld
  • Birth parents and adoptive parents are all legal parents
  • Adoptive parents get guardianship rights, responsibilities and duties
  • Children are supported to meaningfully participate
  • Children are encouraged and supported to share their views and have them taken into account
  • A right for birth family and whānau to be involved in the adoption process
  • Post-adoption contact agreements help keep the child connected to family and whānau
  • Automatic access to information on original birth record, with counselling available if requested
  • No age restrictions to access adoption information
  • Adopted person’s right to be connected to their birth culture is recognised and supported through cultural reports, cultural maintenance plans and other measures

How can the public be involved in adoption law reform?

Public engagement is underway and runs until 7 August 2022.

A discussion document is available on the Ministry of Justice website. The document has been translated into several languages, including te reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language, Samoan, Tongan, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

The discussion document sets out options the Government is considering for creating a new adoption system, and seeks people’s views on those options. The document will help the public in sharing their ideas for reform. These options are not commitments to change the law and will be refined, changed or added to as a result of the engagement process. Questions are listed throughout the discussion document to help people to provide submissions on these options.

A summary document is available to assist public engagement and support participation. The document provides a high-level overview of the content in the discussion document and is available on the Ministry of Justice website

Accessible formats of the summary document, including large print, are being prepared and will be made available shortly. A braille version of the summary document will be available upon request - please email for a Braille copy.

Submissions will also be able to be made in several formats. Further details are provided on the Ministry of Justice’s Consultations page.(external link)

People can submit their feedback by:

Adoption Law Reform
Ministry of Justice
Free Post 113
PO Box 180
Wellington 6140

The Ministry of Justice will also be meeting with the Crown’s te Tiriti o Waitangi partners and people impacted by, or with an interest in, adoption including young people with adoption experiences. Given the number of Pacific adoptions, there will also be targeted engagement with communities from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati in New Zealand.

If you, or your friends and whānau would like to be involved in these engagements, please contact the Ministry of Justice at

How many children are being adopted in New Zealand?

In 2021, 111 adoption applications were granted in the New Zealand Family Court. Further data is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

Between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022, Aotearoa New Zealand was the receiving state for 13 intercountry adoptions under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

Will people who have been adopted (or otherwise impacted by adoption) be supported to participate in the engagement process?

The targeted engagement processes will make sure that people directly impacted by adoption can share their views on how our adoption law should be changed. Engagement specialists will work with people impacted by adoption and will ensure that the engagement process is safe, including ensuring participants who need support can access it.

How will Māori be consulted during the engagement process?

The Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with Ināia Tonu Nei(external link), will be connecting with Māori communities in the second round of engagement. Ināia Tonu Nei is a kaupapa Māori justice reform movement with a mana ōrite relationship with the Justice Sector Leadership Board, which comprises the heads of the six core Justice Sector agencies.

In addition to providing the discussion document in Te Reo Māori, the Ministry is working with the National Iwi Chairs Forum Pou Tikanga - a collective of Iwi leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand - to deliver small-group community workshops. Invitees will include people with lived experience of adoption, people with expertise and knowledge in tikanga Māori, whāngai, or adoption and iwi representatives. Planning for the workshops includes Māori adoption ‘champions’, which will help to ensure a broad representation of adopted Māori who are not necessarily connected with their hapū or iwi.

If you, or your friends or whānau would like to be involved with these workshops, you can get in touch with the Ministry of Justice by emailing

A one-day, Māori-led wānanga will also be held on 10 August 2022 at Wharewaka o Poneke, Wellington. If Māori are interested in attending the wānanga, they can register to attend at link).

Will this review include whāngai?

Tamaiti whāngai or tamaiti atawhai is a Māori customary practice where tamariki are cared for by others (generally whānau members), instead of the birth parents. Whāngai arrangements may occur for different reasons. For example, whāngai may be used where the birth parents of tamariki cannot care for them, to enhance kinship ties, to ensure survival of whakapapa lines, or to assist childless couples within the whānau.

Adoption law does not currently recognise whāngai or atawhai, which can create difficulties for whāngai tamariki and parents in accessing government services.

The discussion document does not present any options the Government is considering for whāngai. We need to work together with Māori to understand whether Māori think there should be any changes to the way the law treats whāngai.

Pou Tikanga are partnering with Ināia Tonu Nei(external link) to host a one-day, Māori-led wānanga specifically on whāngai on Wednesday 10 August, at Wharewaka o Poneke, Wellington. If Māori are interested in attending the wānanga, they can register to attend at link).

How will Pacific people be included in the engagement process?

The reform will consider other how and whether adoption is viewed by different cultures, including Pacific cultures, and what the law should look like.

The Government is planning face-to-face engagement with four Pacific communities: Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati as adoption tends to be more commonplace in these communities. The Government will also connect with Samoan communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. If you, or your friends and whānau would like to be involved, please email the Ministry of Justice at

The discussion document is also translated into Samoan and Tongan, and will be available shortly in an Easy Read format for those with English as a second language.

What are the timelines for engagement?

Public engagement will run from 20 June until 5pm on 7 August 2022. Engagement with specific communities will take place alongside public engagement and continue throughout the policy development process.

What is Oranga Tamariki’s role in the adoption process?

Oranga Tamariki plays a key role in the adoption process. This ranges from engaging with birth parents who want to place their child for adoption, to assisting adoptive applicants seeking to adopt both domestically (within New Zealand) and intercountry (between New Zealand and other countries). The Ministry of Justice and Oranga Tamariki will continue to work closely throughout the review.

What is happening with surrogacy?

Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission has been reviewing Aotearoa New Zealand’s surrogacy laws. As part of this review, the Commission looked at broader questions related to surrogacy, including whether intending parents should have to rely on the adoption process. In May 2022, it released its final report, Te Kōpū Whāngai: He Arotake | Review of Surrogacy, which recommended creating new processes for establishing legal parenthood in surrogacy arrangements. The Government will be considering the Law Commission’s recommendations for reforming surrogacy laws separately.

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