Adoption law reform

Audrey Young in the NZ Herald reports:

Two MPs from opposing parties, National’s and the Greens’ , have joined forces to develop a bill that would legalise adoption by gay couples.

The National Party’s northern regional conference in Auckland at the weekend passed a remit in closed session supporting adoption by couples in a civil union.

I blogged this over the weekend. A very welcome move, and also good to see MPs working across party lines on an issue that impacts a lot of New Zealanders – I don’t mean just same sex adoption, but updating the adoption and surrogacy laws generally. They are woefully out of date.

Prime Minister John Key told the Herald yesterday the passage of the remit reflected the changing face of the National Party.

“The party is modernising. You can see by the number of young people. It’s ethnically a lot more diverse than in was. It’s more representative of modern day New Zealand. It’s a very positive and healthy thing.”

For many years the majority of delegates at conferences were old and white. This has changed, especially in Auckland. I recall being a Young National myself and TVNZ asking me up until what age you are considered a Young National, and replying “Oh, around 60” 🙂

Ms Kaye, the MP for Auckland Central, said she had worked for 18 months on the issue with Mr Hague, a West Coast gay MP.

She said many couples had fertility issues and more were considering surrogacy.

It made sense to consider adoption and surrogacy together, as they reflected the more modern arrangements New Zealanders were choosing to structure their families.

When the MPs started at looking at the Adoption Act 1955, they decided it would be best to approach it from a perspective in which the welfare of the child was paramount.

This is the sensible focus. Legislative prohibitions against certain types of relationships may result in outcomes where the child’s welfare is not paramount. It is far better for the totality of the circumstances of a prospective parent or parents is taken into account.

The two MPs are drafting legislation to amend the Care of Children Bill 2004 based on a previous Law Commission report that looked at guardianship and adoption.

The measure should be ready in a few months, Ms Kaye said, and would be a private member’s bill in her name or Mr Hague’s.

It was a complex piece of work and there would be about 40 policy decisions. Some would be controversial, including the age of adoption, adoption by same-sex couples, adoption by single people, Maori adoption practices and issues relating to surrogacy.

It is a hugely complex area, especially as what actually happens today is so far removed from the old law which was all about “closed” adoptions where a birth parent gives their child up to the state who gives it to adoptive parents. Such adoptions are almost extinct in New Zealand. The majority of adoptions involve arrangements between birth and adoptive parents directly, or through surrogacy.

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