Between 1950 and 1980 a number of mothers in New Zealand had their newborn babies taken from them and adopted out to married couples. This was known as the “baby scoop” era.
History of forced adoptions in New Zealand
Forced adoptions happened due to European/Pakeha social values of the time. After WWII it was believed that it was best for children to be raised by a married man and woman. Solo or unwed mothers were expected to give their children up for adoption.
Some mothers went to institutions, such as the Salvation Army and Anglican and Catholic Churches seeking support. However these institutions actively discouraged mothers from keeping their babies and mothers did not receive the support they were seeking.
The laws at the time failed to protect vulnerable birth parents.
Many of these mothers suffered through:
- Being heavily medicated before and after birth;
- Having their babies taken away directly after delivery; and
- Receiving little to no support or legal representation.
Because these forced adoptions were “closed adoptions”, children who had been adopted out did not know who their birth parents were. This has been incredibly detrimental to Maori children by disconnecting them from their whakapapa.
What is the current adoption law in New Zealand?
The Adoption Act 1955 sets out the law for adoption in New Zealand. This is one of New Zealand’s oldest pieces of social legislation and has gone years without any major reform.
The Adoption Act requires the child’s birth parents or guardians to consent to adoption. Under the Adoption Regulations 1959, an adoption consent form must be witnessed by the solicitor acting for the applicant.
While consent by the birth mother is required for adoption orders, tighter safeguards should be added to the Adoption Act 1955 to prevent any risk of forced adoptions in the future.
The Royal Commission Inquiry into forced adoptions – the decision
In 2016, a petition was made to the House of Representatives to undertake an inquiry into forced adoptions in New Zealand.
A Report of the Social Services and Community Committee was released in 2020 and detailed the experiences of mothers who were forced to give their children up for adoption.
The majority of the House of Representatives concluded that while they did not agree with forced adoption practices, the practices reflected the social values and attitudes of the time.
This has left mothers and children who were impacted by forced adoption with no closure or reparation for the trauma and grief they suffered and continue to suffer from.
How can Shine Lawyers help?
Shine Lawyers is fighting for change as part of our submissions to the New Zealand Government so that survivors of forced adoptions can access the acknowledgement, restitution and compensation they deserve.
If you’d like to talk to our team about your experience, we offer confidential, obligation-free consultations to anyone considering taking legal action. Contact us today to arrange your initial discussion.