25 September 2009

New Zealand Adoption Act 1955

I thought it was about time I posted about this archaic and barbaric piece of legislation which almost annihilated my life and separated my daughter from her true family.

Over the past few years, I have come across many statements about adoption in New Zealand that have left me absolutely shocked and quite concerned with the lack of knowledge the general public have about the true nature of the laws in NZ and how ancient they are.

A couple of friends have kept me up to date with what is going on over in NZ and one friend told me about a talk back on radio a few years back which has had me very concerned about the reality of adoption and how the public view it.

I have come across statements about how open adoption is in New Zealand and how advanced they are in the adoption world.

I would like to set the record straight.

For a country that prides itself in doing the “right” thing and keeping up with or surpassing other major countries in the west in important issues, Adoption is one area New Zealand is literally stuck in the dark ages.

You see, the law still operates under the New Zealand Adoption Act of 1955. Yes, that’s right, 1955!! The same Act that saw babies stolen at birth, mothers drugged and forced to sign while still under the influence of these drugs. In reality, nothing in the legal system has changed.... and when you look at what happened in my case, the practise of the Act hasn’t changed.

Open Adoption is nonexistent despite the adopters I have heard of claiming all adoptions are open today. As yet, while there is talk of making open adoption a legal agreement, there is NO SUCH THING AS OPEN ADOPTION IN THE LAW. It simply does not exist so just like in the good old US of A, adopters can promise the earth to a child’s mother and slam the door shut in her face the minute the ink is dry on the final order. Again, something that happens all too often.

Sadly, adoptive parents, whilst knowing the truth of this, have been making claims about all adoptions in New Zealand being open and that closed adoptions no longer exist. This is just not true. The Act ONLY provides for a CLOSED adoption: Open Adoptions are merely word of mouth agreements completely at the whim of the adoptive parents. Whilst some might honour their agreements, there are more that DON’T and thus the adoption is closed as the LAW provides for this.

The Act as it currently stands provides room for private adoptions, a dangerous practise given there is no compulsory counselling for an expectant mother. In fact, while we are on that subject, there is NO protection for an expectant mother other than she cannot sign before her baby is ten days old. Long enough for those lusting after her baby to wear her down to a point she cannot think for herself, especially so soon after childbirth.

The whole issue surrounding consent is another huge cause for alarm. As I have already mentioned, there is no room in the Act for counselling to be given to the natural parents. In fact there is no protection in the Act to ensure a mother is fully aware of the implications and law of adoption for her and her child, no protection from being coerced and bullied into signing a consent when it is clearly against her will.

In my case, I was wrongly informed if I didn't sign the consent, the Attorney General could sign on my behalf. Whilst this does happen in some cases, it is rare and only in the case of a child being abused. However, when you are not given unbiased information and are isolated and unsupported, this sort of information does much damage. The Act in providing NO counselling for expectant and new mothers, allows for coercion and fraudulent practises to obtain an adoption consent. To ensure an adoption consent is obtained without Fraud or coercion, one would expect madatory counselling to be introduced immediately and by persons who understand the complexity of what it really means to sign such a consent.

A lawyer taking a mother's consent can leave out all important facts such as once signed there is no revocation period and then state in an affidavit, that he laid out the law and his word is upheld over hers. The lawyer who took my consent had a huge conflict of interest given he was an adoptive parent advocating for more adoptions. Working in conjunction with my so called "crisis counsellor", I was easy prey for their games.

The Act itself is written with such ambiguous language, it is difficult to decipher at exactly what point a consent becomes irrevocable. While trying to reclaim my daughter barely days after being FORCED to sign, I was told I could reclaim my daughter for up to 6 months. I was also told this BEFORE I signed. However, the reality is that once signed, that piece of paper, regardless of how the signature is obtained, is irrevocable. Criminal. In my own interpretation of the Act, I would say there is room for revocation before an interim order has been made AFTER the application has been processed... however the ambiguity of this section in the Act makes it difficult to know exactly. Again, to protect from undue pressure being allowed to bully her into signing a consent, the consent should not be made irrevocable; indeed, a mother should be able to reclaim her child, HER FAMILY at any time before a final adoption order is made or six months as that is usually how long it would take for a mother suffering from depression, under the influence of others or with Post Natal Depression may need to allow all her hormones and post birth physical and meotional condition to settle down. Undertaking to separate a mother and her child is such a huge task it shouldn't be dealt with lightly however, the Adoption Act of 1955 places ALL the power and choices into the hands of the adopting family and depsite its so called bid to see the best interests and welfare of the child are taken into account, these are usually neglected in favour of approving the adoption, as mentioned below.

There is no protection for the child being placed for adoption and while an Adoption order can only be finalised once it is deemed to be in the best interests and welfare of the child, this is just a formality and not really taken in consideration as if it were, most of the adoptions would NOT take place as a guillotine approach to a child’s life can never be in his/her best interests OR welfare.

This ancient and archaic piece of legislation breaches the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; in particular Article 25 part (ii) which states:

“(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

While New Zealand has the Domestic Purposes Benefit, it is not encouraged and in my experience and that of other mothers I have spoken to in New Zealand, being a single mother is NOT given special care and assistance.

The Adoption Act also breaches Article 7:

“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

The Act denies a mother to any legal standing before the court should she try to fight an order being made. Home owners have more rights in New Zealand than a mother trying to reclaim her own child. Considering we are dealing with people's lives here and not a piece of land or property, this is incredibly disturbing.

This Act also breaches the Convention of the Rights of the Child, in particular Articles 7, 8 and 9 which state:

“Article 7
1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. (While children are give a name with adoption, it is usually not the name they were given at birth)

2. States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.

Article 8
1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. (Adoption by its guillotine effect completely denies this depsite a child being given a new name and family. A child has the right to the family they are born to.)

2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.

Article 9
1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child's place of residence. (In other words, children should not be separated from their families where there is NO evidence of abuse or neglect! Not to mention the fact when an adoption takes place, the CHILD has no say in the matter so "against their will" can never be really determined. The decision is all based on the court and usually in favourof the adopters.)

2. In any proceedings pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present article, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings and make their views known.

3. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests.

4. Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death (including death arising from any cause while the person is in the custody of the State) of one or both parents or of the child, that State Party shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family unless the provision of the information would be detrimental to the well-being of the child. States Parties shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall of itself entail no adverse consequences for the person(s) concerned.”

The Act as it stands, cuts a child off from their natural heritage completely, changes their name, falsifies their birth certificate and basically makes their life into a lie. The Act does not allow for children to voice their own views and they are not given a platform on which to be heard.

The sections I have highlighted were in my case completely breached. The Act allows for this by not giving any protection to prevent this from happening.

Further to the Articles above, the Act breaches Articles 10, 12, 13, 14 and 16. Adoption has well known detrimental mental health effects on the child and yet the Act completely disregards these in favour of family separation. This principle undermines the Family Court’s role to keep families together where possible. Adoption in this legislation is about providing a family with a child and is not focussed on the important role of finding a home for a child who NEEDS one. Children who have families already do not need homes. Their families need the right tools and assistance to help raise this child.

Adoption with its “clean start” mentality, breaches a child’s right to live the life they were born too. Even in cases of abuse where a child is forcibly removed (and quite rightly so), adoption should not be the answer.

If New Zealand wants to uphold its duty to its people and more importantly its children, they will abolish the Adoption Act of 1955 and replace it with legislation that upholds the fundamentals of a child’s basic rights to their family. Australia leads the way when it comes to adoption. It is by no means perfect but at least it has a giant leap of a start over the other western countries who refuse to acknowledge the damage adoption causes.

It is time a National Inquiry was called into the Adoption Act 1955 and its practises over the last 54 years. Until those in government stand up and take responsibility for this barbaric piece of legislation, New Zealand cannot move forward and be seen as a country looking after her people. I love my country but thanks to the laws of my own home land, I lost my child. And I want something to be done about it so no other mother or child EVER has to needlessly suffer what I and my daughter have been through again.

7 comments:

  1. Food for thought in my own quest justice. Thank you for your research and your determination to see that they very laws that allowed and infact,enabled us to be wronged, will one day be righted. If we who have paid the ultimate price do not speak up then who will?

    Stay strong my friend, and continue to tell your truth as only you can.

    Love and Hugs,
    Denise

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  2. Though I totally disagree with all aspects of adoption... I am currently in school and have to look at both sides of adoption, as I am demonstrating how much I know about it.

    I suggested, that in open adoption, what we need to do in order to make sure it stays open, is to not terminate the parents' rights. That way, they still have them.

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  3. There are still lots of problems and loopholes in Australia....I know of one case where an infertile couple flew a pregnant woman into the country, she had her baby, handed over the baby at 2 days old and shortly thereafter flew back to Africa. No adoption has taken place but a child is still separated from her mother (who was under duress and did not have appropriate support and counselling). How on earth this was sorted with immigration I do not know but I fear it could be happening not infrequently.
    Dawn

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  4. I agree Dawn, Australia does have its fair share of issues but in comparison to the likes of the USA and NZ, it is miles ahead. I am not dimissing those sorts of stories and the one you mentioned is just plain criminal, as it is completely disregarding a child's right to an identity under the law. This is surrogacy which I cannot stand and that should be outlawed; it is worse than adoption. I don't understand why humans feel they have the right to play God/Mother Nature and just take what is not theirs to take. It is really disgusting.

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  5. Yep, I know, things are so much better than in the US (and NZ), but it's very frustrating to see such things happening and realise that there is not enough protection. We still need better legislation, more support early on for mothers who are likely to struggle in parenting and more support for foster/adoptive families who are parenting children who have experienced trauma early in life.
    Anyway, I was just flabergasted when I heard about the story I mentioned. I just didn't think that such things could happen here....and that people could be so self adsorbed and self righteous (they've sought publicity for their family http://www2b.abc.net.au/guestbookcentral/list.asp?GuestbookID=29&view=&numtoview=&start=&sort=&filter1=&filter1val=&filter2=&filter2val=&filter3=&filter3val=&advanced=&pagestart=2) bleh!

    Good luck getting a review and changes in NZ.
    Dawn

    ReplyDelete
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