More and more New Zealanders are looking to adopt babies from overseas, largely due to falling domestic adoption opportunities. Countries that New Zealanders are adopting foreign babies from include Russia, Cambodia, India, Peru, South Africa, Thailand and Tonga. While for some couples adopting from a foreign country is a choice (and a good one), for many it is something they look to only after years of being on the domestic adoption waiting list.
The New Zealand Herald reports
that, according to Child Youth and Family, the number of domestic adoptions has fallen 40 per cent in the last five years. Of the women who gave birth outside of marriage in New Zealand in the post-war decades, most found adoptive parents for their babies: In 1971, for example
, the peak year for adoptions, 3,976 babies were adopted out by young unmarried mothers. In 2009 in New Zealand
there were about 181 domestic adoptions including adoption between relations.
AUT University psychology lecturer, Rhoda Scherman, suggests that possible reasons for the fall include the increased availability (and acceptability) of abortions and contraception, along with a rise in infertility and an increase in woman willing to be single mothers. New Zealand’s abortion rate
has risen almost steadily from 5,945 in 1980 to 17,940 in 2008. Availability of contraception has also greatly increased during this period. The rise in infertility has most likely been caused by women choosing to have babies later. Research also suggests that the pill
affects fertility when used on a long term basis, as is more often the case with women choosing to have babies later.
A few months ago, I was talking to a woman in her thirties who, after much trying and heartache, cannot have children. She had been on the New Zealand domestic adoption waiting list for a few years and had finally given up and was just going through the process of adopting twins from South Africa – something that she said was only possible because she retains her South African citizenship and has the means to fly over there for several months until the babies are ready to fly ‘home’ to New Zealand. She has been desperate to adopt a baby for many years and we discussed how absurd it is that New Zealand has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, yet there is a huge waiting list of loving homes who would desperately love to bring those children up; surely a win-win situation?
Christchurch GP Dr Hilary Cleland has commented that women with crisis pregnancies are often stressed and find their options difficult to consider “in panic mode” – something that is especially understandable if you are a young teenager (who in New Zealand are able to get an abortion through their schools without having to discuss the decision with their parents – a decision they might well regret after exiting their ‘panic mode’, as Cleland describes it). Cleland further commented that:
“I guess people are really in crisis and they look at their options and termination might seem like a quick solution. A lot of people are attracted to it because of that. They just want to get out of the situation that they are in…[Yet], there’s a huge surplus of potential adoptive families out there. A lot of them would be great parents.”