Adoption – if you were born in New Zealand

Finding out about your natural parents

The first step is to contact Child, Youth and Family – Adoption Information and Services Unit (Phone 0508 FAMILY) and request any non-identifying information about your natural parents.

Obtaining an original birth certificate

If you are adopted and aged 20 or over, the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 allows you to apply for a copy of your original birth certificate.

Department of Internal Affairs – Registrar General’s Office – Adult Adoption Information

Application for original birth certificate

Your certificate will be sent to the branch of the Adoption Information and Services Unit that is nearest your home. This certificate will give the date and place of your birth, sex, and original first names if they were put on the register. It may show basic natural parent details.

If the details of one or both of your natural parents appear on the original birth certificate you will be sent a list of counsellors and agencies. You must tell the Registrar-General who you have chosen from this list and your birth certificate will be sent to the relevant counsellor or agency. This person then contacts you and arranges for you to collect the certificate.  Some counsellors will post your certificate to you.

Tracing your natural mother or father

NATURAL mother

Your original pre-adoptive birth certificate will usually show your natural mother’s full name, age, marital status, her maiden name (if married), and her place of birth.  Start by searching the current telephone directory – to see if there is a listing for a current address.

All births, deaths and marriages are currently public property.  Search electoral rolls from the date of your birth for your natural mother and also for other family members (parents and siblings).  Major city public libraries hold every New Zealand electoral roll from 1853 to present.  It may be easier to trace your natural mother through her parents and siblings, especially if she was very young at the time of your birth.  For instance, her parents may have resided in the same street in the same town until their death.  Death certificates of either parent will not only show the date of death but also how many surviving children (if any), their sex and ages.  Their death notice in the local newspaper will give names of family members and possibly the married name of your natural mother and where she resided at the time of the death.  This can sometimes be the easiest and fastest way to trace your natural mother, as searching the indexes for her marriage or death can be very time consuming and may not provide successful results, especially if natural parents are living and married or have died overseas.

For information on obtaining copies of birth, death and marriage certificates contact the Dept of Internal Affairs –

If it is available, obtain a photocopy, or ‘image’ copy, of a certificate. This will have more information e.g. officiating minister and witnesses and may lead you to people who know about your birth mother and her family.

NATURAL father

Your natural father will not be mentioned unless he is on the original birth certificate..  The Adoption Unit may have information about him and will give you non-identifying information about him.  You will need your father’s first name to begin a search.  Your natural mother or biological relatives may have some information.  If you have his full name follow the search process is the same as searching for your natural  mother.

No natural parents given on your birth certificate?

If there are no details of your natural parents on the birth certificate, a veto has been placed by them. You will receive the certificate directly at the address you have provided on the form, together with a list of counsellors. You may want to discuss this with a counsellor experienced with adoption issues. A veto lasts for ten years but can be lifted at any time. Sometimes natural parents provide a letter of explanation as to why they placed a veto and you may ask if Child, Youth and Family holds any information about your adoption by writing to:

The Adoption Information and Services Unit
Child, Youth and Family
Private Bag 6901
Marion Square

Even if you find a veto has been placed you can still continue your search. A veto only stops identifying information being released by the Department of Internal Affairs and CYFs.

Note:  Only natural parents of people adopted before 1 March 1986, and adopted people aged 19 and over can ask for a veto to be placed.  People who are adopted after 28 February 1986 may register vetoes once they are 19, but no similar provision exists for the natural  parents of this group. Natural parents and adopted people prior to the 1985  Adult Adoption Information Act can still renew or place a veto.

Put another way, people adopted after the 1985 Adult Adoption Information Act still have the ability to veto – but natural parents who relinquished their child for adoption after the Act can’t veto. For further information see sections 3 and 7 of the Adult Adoption Information Act.

Organisations that can help

Your local support group is a good place to start.

Adoption Information and Services Unit

This unit is part of the Department of Child, Youth and Family.  It offers support and information for adopted adults who are searching for birth parents – both pre and post reunion.