Adoption Law Reform Overlooked – Yet Again

Press Release – Adoption Action

No one disputes that the Adoption Act 1955 is in urgent need of reform. It reflects social attitudes and values of a bygone era and arguably discriminates on the grounds of age, sex, marital status, religious belief, ethnic origin, disability and sexual …
Adoption Action Incorporated
Media Release 13 February 2012

Adoption Law Reform Overlooked – Yet Again

No one disputes that the Adoption Act 1955 is in urgent need of reform. It reflects social attitudes and values of a bygone era and arguably discriminates on the grounds of age, sex, marital status, religious belief, ethnic origin, disability and sexual orientation. The Law Commission in 2000 recommended more than 100 changes to our adoption laws. The Ministry of Justice in papers prepared for Cabinet in 2004 and 2007 made a strong case why the Adoption Act should be repealed and replaced. Some provisions of the Act have been criticised by our Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child as well as by judges, academics, Maori commentators and various official committees as well as by people affected by its outdated and discriminatory provisions.

So it is deeply disappointing to find that in the Ministry of Justice Consultation Paper Reviewing the Family Court released in September last year there is no mention of adoption processes and the need for reform. Earlier this month the Ministry released its traditional Briefing to the Incoming Minister and again there is no mention of adoption reform as an area deserving of the Minister’s consideration.

Adoption has been described as the Cinderella of family law languishing in a dark back room while major reforms have been made to other family statutes. The departing Minister, Hon Simon Power, in his valedictory address to Parliament last year said “It is our job to tackle the tough issues, the issues the public pays us to front up to and come to a view on. There are many, many debates that Parliament does not want to have, for fear of losing votes or not staying on message.” He gave three examples one of which was adoption reform..

Adoption Action has lobbied four Ministers of Justice over the last decade and has been assured that adoption reform is a priority yet, despite such assurances, no Adoption Reform Bill has been drafted. Each time adoption reform mysteriously drops off the Ministry’s work programme (see attached chronology). Adoption Action will be taking the matter up with the new Minister of Justice, Hon Judith Collins, in the hope that Cinderella may at last see the light of day and the public will be able to have a say on how adoption laws should look in the 21st century.

Background Note

Adoption Action is a society whose aims are to propose and promote changes to adoption laws, policies and practices to enhance the rights of children affected by adoption, to eliminate discriminatory provisions in current adoption law and to press for the introduction of new laws which reflect contemporary attitudes and values.

In July last year Adoption Action filed a claim with the Human Rights Review Tribunal claiming that the Adoption Act breached the anti-discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act and New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in 16 separate respects.

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