Adoption Terms

A-Z of Adoption Terms

Most Common Terms

Adoption: The legal transfer of all parental rights and obligations from one person or couple to another person or couple.

Adoptive Parents:  An individual or couple who have chosen to adopt and have received CYF approval.

Birth Parents: The biological mother and father of the baby.

Closed Adoption: An adoption that has no identifying information shared. Most adoptions in New Zealand are now open to some degree.

Consent Forms: These papers are signed by birth parents to hand over their parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents.

Contact Agreements: These are not legally binding but they state the level of contact both parties are comfortable with at the time of the adoption.

Domestic Adoption: This is adoption within New Zealand rather than from another country.

Final Adoption Order: This is the court hearing that finalises the adoption process and usually occurs within the first year after the adoption has occurred. Once this is granted a new birth certificate showing the adoptive parents as the parents can be issued. The child can now legally take the adoptive parents surname.

Foster Parents:  An individual or couple who has temporary care of a child, but has no legal rights in determining many aspects of a child’s life. Sometimes foster parents become adoptive parents. The goal of foster care is to care for the child until the courts decide where it will be placed.

Identified Adoption: Adoptive parents and birthparents find each other first and then go to CYF to complete the adoption process.

Interim Adoption Order: The court makes this once the consent forms have been signed by the birth parents. This enables the adoptive parents to take the baby home with them.

International Adoption:  The adopted child comes from another country. CYF handle domestic and international adoptions in New Zealand (see

Open Adoption:  An adoption that has identifying information shared. This can be at the time the adoption takes place and/or while the child grows up. It can vary from minimal information like a photo and letter being exchanged at the time of birth, to regular contact between birthparents and adoptive parents and child.

Profile Book: This is created by a couple hoping to adopt to describe their lives and show what they have to offer a child.

Termination of Parental Rights:  This can be done as a voluntary process when birth parents consent to an adoption. A termination of parental rights is a legal process and must be done before an adoption can be finalised.

Whangai: This is a Maori traditional approach to adoption where children are placed with someone from the extended family. No legal paperwork is involved and therefore it is not a legal adoption arrangement.