Adoption in New Zealand

Adoption in New Zealand

Stats For adoption in nz

“Adoption in New Zealand is handled by Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children. For more information about Oranga Tamariki and adoptions see click here 

Adoption in New Zealand has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, in terms of the numbers of adoptions, and also in terms of the way it happens.

Number of adoptions

The number of non-family adoptions in New Zealand grew from about 1,000 in the 1950s to over 2,500 in the late 1960s, before steadily declining to the point where there are only about 100 per year today.


Numbers appear to have levelled out in the last 20 years. However closer examination shows that the number are still generally declining.


A number of reasons for the decline in adoptions have been given including:

  • Abolition of illegitimate status (1969) and loss of stigma
  • It being easier to be a single mum (including the introduction of the DPB)
  • De facto relationships becoming more accepted
  • Less pressure to adopt (medical, religious, legal, family)
  • Better contraception
  • Easier access to contraception and abortion
  • Negative perceptions of the impact on people’s lives’ of adoption
  • A misunderstanding about adoption today (many think it doesn’t happen at all or happens as it did in the 1960s)

How adoption happens

Originally New Zealand had a system called ‘Closed Adoption’. Under this the record of the natural parents is kept sealed. This has been referred to as “secret adoption”. It can lead to issues of identity as the adopted person grows up not knowing “where they have come from”.

Since the early 1990s, New Zealand has favoured a system called “Open Adoption”. In this there is some level of ongoing contact between members of the ‘adoption triad’ (adoptive family, biological family and adopted child). The level of openness can vary from regular contact to occasional communications. The minimum is that some information is known about the biological parents, which is often not the case with closed adoption.

Research suggests Open Adoption is best for all involved in the ‘Triad’.