Best Practice Guidelines
Overriding best practice guidelines:
- The welfare and best interests of the child11 is the paramount consideration in adoption practice;
- Adoption is not an arrangement between individuals. It is a social and legal protective measure for children. Any adoption should be approached from this perspective;
- Inter-country adoption may be considered as an alternative means of providing a child with a family only if the child cannot be cared for in the child’s country of origin;
- Adoption practice must comply with New Zealand’s international obligations and the laws of the countries involved;
- Adoption practice assists a child to know and have access to his or her heritage, recognising the genetic and psychological connection of the adopted person to his or her families of origin;
- Adoption has life-long and inter-generational consequences;
- The child shall have the opportunity to express views on matters affecting the child either directly or through a representative and those views must be taken into account;
- Children benefit from the preservation and strengthening of their identity in an environment that supports their cultural and linguistic heritage;
- Decisions and actions concerning adoption should be made in a timeframe that is appropriate, having regard to applicant(s) need for considered decision making and the child’s sense of time; and
- The child, the birth parents and the adoptive family have the right to confidentiality and to respect for their private lives. Access to their file and personal information should be governed by the legislative guidelines of the respective countries. Such information should not be made available to a wide and unspecified public through channels such as the internet.
In determining what constitutes the best interests of the child, the principles and definitions published by the International Social Service Organisation (an international resource centre for the protection of children in adoption) are agreed to, including:
(a) Adoption is a social and legal protective measure for children.
(b) Adoption should be made available to all children whose personal and family situation warrants it, without prejudice against the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, social situation, physical features, culture, property, physical or mental health disorders, birth or other status.
(c) It is the child who must be the starting point in the process leading up to adoption; this process to be initiated because the situation of the child warrants it, not because others have expressed the wish to adopt the child or are in the quest for a child.
(d) The handling of any child’s case cannot be left to the birth parents, to unqualified protagonists or those of doubtful ethics, or to prospective adoptive parents. It must be carried out by services competent (governmental or private bodies whose official responsibility is to carry out the tasks implied by the child’s protection) in the protection of children.
(e) Professionals engaged in adoption proceedings should be guided as a priority, in the perception of their work and in their practice, by the needs of the child. While they must be careful to listen to and respect the wishes of prospective adoptive parents and the demands of birth parents, whatever their particularities may be, they are not required to accord them priority, but rather to consider the extent to which they correspond to the best interests of the child. Professionals must be aware that adoption in the best interests of the child is one that fosters the creation of an environment or family relationships that satisfy all parties.
(f) Since time is essential in a child’s development, professionals should act as quickly as possible without jeopardising overall respect for procedures. They should cut as much as possible the period of waiting, uncertainty or transition that children live through.
(g) The child, in a manner appropriate to his or her age and degree of maturity, must be kept informed and consulted about any life plan for him/her.
(h) Priority for the prevention of abandonment:
(i) Priority must go to allowing children to be raised in their own family, i.e. staying with birth parents or the extended family, being reunited with the immediate or extended family. (Governments and civil society must do their utmost to ensure that families of origin have the possibility, and are encouraged, to care for their own children).
(ii) Search for alternatives. When the birth family does not meet the conditions that ensure the psychosocial development as well as the physical and emotional integrity of the child, competent child protection bodies must seek adequate alternatives.
(iii) Priority for an alternative family. The family is the best environment for a child’s development. Offering a child a substitute family should, other than in exceptional and justified cases, prevail over his or her placement or long-term residence in an institution.
(i) Priority for a permanent solution. To flourish, a child needs stability in his or her contacts with the adults around him/her. Permanent solution must prevail over provisional arrangements for an undetermined period of time.
(j) Subsidiarity of Intercountry Adoption:
(i) Intercountry Adoption is subsidiary to domestic adoption. As a priority a child must be placed for adoption in his or her own country or in a culture, linguistic and religious environment akin to his or her community of origin. A decision in favour of intercountry adoption should be taken only after an unsuccessful search has been conducted for a satisfactory solution in the child’s country of origin. In the interests of the child, the competent authorities shall see to it that such a search is carried out without undue delay.
(ii) Adoptability of the child. Authorities must determine the legal adoptability as well as determine that it is impossible for the birth family to care for the child and assessment of the child’s capacity to benefit from a family environment. The adoptability of the child must be determined before starting adoption proceedings. Psychological, social, medical and legal factors must be taken into account. It must be made certain also that a child’s relinquished status is not the result of trafficking, sale or kidnapping.
(iii) Prospective parents eligibility to adopt. The adoptive family must be recognised ahead of time as being apt and able to ensure, in a lasting and satisfactory manner, the protection and respect of a child with a background that may include traumatic experiences, may have little in common with their new society.
(iv) Replacement preparation. The child, the adoptive family and the birth parents should be prepared for adoption. Adoption will satisfy the interests of all parties, only if adequate preparation permits each person to understand the short and long-term implications of adoption on his or her life and on the child’s life. Counselling must help the child and the adoptive family to approach their first meeting and the start of life together with more serenity.
(k) Post Adoption Support. Access to qualified post-adoption support services should be made available to the child, the adoptive parents and siblings, as well as birth parents, in order to answer questions and unravel or resolve any problems which may arise.
(l) Right to Confidentiality. The child, the birth parents and the adoptive family have the right to confidentiality and to respect for their private lives.
(m) Search for Origins. Children have the right, if they feel the need and when age and maturity permit, to know their history, especially information relating to their birth mother and father, and siblings wherever possible. It is essential to have this information gathered and preserved.
(n) Profit, Abuse, Trafficking, Sale. The protection of children in a vulnerable position must not be a source of material or other profit. Any abuse, trading or trafficking in this field flouts the rights of the individual human.
(o) Armed Conflict and Natural Disasters. Intercountry adoption is not a step to consider in countries where armed conflict prevails or among victims of natural disasters. It may only be contemplated after a sufficient period (two years are generally recommended) to allow competent bodies to ensure that no member of the child’s family or community is still living and willing to care for the child.