Adoption fears 'unfounded'

22:36, Apr 14 2013

Fears that more same-sex couples will want to adopt if the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill goes ahead are unfounded, according to Child, Youth and Family.

Out of 250 to 300 currently approved adoptive parents, only a handful are same-sex couples and this is unlikely to change significantly with any law change.

Same-sex couples are treated the same as de facto couples when it comes to adopting as the Guardianship Act of 1955 states only couples who are spouses can adopt.

One of the pair can adopt but the other can only have guardianship. Court orders can be made to over-ride the law in specific cases.

In the 12 months to June 2012, there were 21 non-relative adoptions in New Zealand.

There were two adoptions in Timaru finalised in court from July 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013.

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CYF southern region adoption adviser Peter McGurk said it was up to the expectant biological parents who they chose to be the adoptive parents for their child.

CYF's role was to assess and ensure the pool of potential adoptive parents were safe, and could offer a child a stable, loving and committed home. Adoptive parent applicants underwent police checks, medical checks, in-house visits, thorough reference checks, interviews, and preparation programmes and workshops.

The welfare of the child was the priority in all placements.

The bill, which will have its final reading on April 17, seeks to amend the Marriage Act 1955 by changing the definition of marriage from a union between a man and woman to a union of two people, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

People against the bill are concerned there will be an influx of adoptive same-sex parents.

Whether couples were married or in a same-sex relationship was not important, Mr McGurk said.

Research could be found supporting either side of the same-sex parenting argument.

Mr McGurk said many expectant parents chose to place their children with extended family and some happened to be same-sex scenarios. "We would ask what are the benefits for the children . . . will they reach their potential at the end of the day?"

In the year to June 2012, the government agency placed 235 under-5-year-olds in Home For Life care with permanent foster parents, which is different from adoption.

Mr McGurk said that in these cases the children retained their original birth certificate.

THE FACTS

New Zealand was the first country in the Commonwealth to enact adoption legislation in 1881. In the 1930s babies born outside wedlock were sent to the 60 or 70 orphanages around New Zealand.

Institutions were established to care for unmarried mothers in the 1940s and to promote adoption. By the 1950s unmarried mothers wanting to keep their babies were labelled "selfish".

New Zealand had one of the highest rates of adoption in the world. In 1968, 6 per cent of live births were placed in adoption.

As social welfare benefits were introduced for single parents, more women chose to keep their babies and attitudes changed towards "illegitimacy".

The Timaru Herald