A Kiwi couple living in Thailand have fought for years to adopt a child but are unable to do so because of a 64-year-old New Zealand law.
Sam Silby and Israel Tan want to start a family in Thailand, their home of six years. But Thai domestic adoption does not meet the criteria of our law, they say.
In 2016, the Human Rights Tribunal called for urgent reform of the 1955 Adoption Act on the grounds it discriminated against people based on sex, age, marital status, and disability.
Last week, a 30,000 strong petition calling for law reform was presented to parliament. Silby was one of those signatures.
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Silby and Tan discussed adopting for more than a decade, but it was time spent with abandoned, orphaned and disabled children at a children’s home in Bangkok that made them realise the difference they could make.
They spent a year on the application process, undergoing psychiatric and medical assessments and collecting financial reports and references, only to learn it would essentially be “impossible” because they are New Zealanders.
There is one document they say they cannot get from the New Zealand government, which “certifies the eligibility of an adopted child to enter into NZ, and the legalisation of the adoption under the concerned law of NZ when due”.
Silby understands the issue is that the Governments’ view is Thai legislation doesn’t specify the rights to inheritance for the adoptive parents – should the child die – as required by our legislation to gain citizenship.
“We were so deflated.”
Silby and Tan could adopt Thai children if they were living in New Zealand, but say Thailand is their home.
They want the law to change, not just for themselves, but to “build a pathway for New Zealanders to adopt more easily in the future”.
Silby said it discriminates against a number of minority groups, for whom the couple also advocates.
The current law stops civil union partners or same-sex de facto couples from adopting.
It also places restrictions on single men trying to adopt girls and stops anyone under the age of 25 from adopting.
“There are more than 153 million children worldwide who are parent-less. It’s important we stand up and speak for them.”
New Zealand is a forward-thinking and progressive country, but in this instance “needs a bit of a push”, she said.
“We’re not the first ones and we won’t be the last. We’ve got to make a change here.”
Justice Minister Andrew Little told Stuff society has moved on since the Act was passed, evident from the “significant” number of people who supported the petition.
“New Zealand’s adoption laws are out of date, and I have my own concerns that they no longer represent modern attitudes and practice,” Little said.
Issues with adoption were “complex”, particularly where they have an international element, he said.
Any changes to the law would require careful consideration and consultation “to ensure the changes we make are the right ones”.