by Dr Anne Else, MNZM
Thousands of New Zealanders have had their lives profoundly affected by adoption. I am one of them: I was adopted at birth in 1945.
The book I needed to read about adoption did not exist. So, in 1991 I published A Question of Adoption: Closed Stranger Adoption in New Zealand 1944–1974. This has now been completely updated, expanded, and republished online as a new e-book by Bridget Williams Books.
I was very fortunate to work with distinguished Māori academic Dr Maria Haenga-Collins on this project.
As well as adoption, we have covered state care, donor conception and surrogacy, from 1975 right up to the present. The first part shows how the post-war adoption system took shape, based on narrow, judgmental concepts of “unmarried mothers”, “unwanted children” and “normal families”; how it worked (or failed to work); and its lifelong effects on everyone involved. It sets out how and why profound change eventually took place, thanks to adopted people and their adoptive and birth parents speaking out about their experience.
In the new chapters we go on to cover the shocking story of how children – especially tamariki Māori – have been treated in state care, including being cut off from their whānau and whakapapa (as they were by adoption too). There’s a detailed account of the long struggles to reveal the past and stop it being repeated.
We then chart the complex history of new ways of creating children using “third parties” – donors of sperm, eggs and embryos as well as surrogate mothers – through assisted reproductive technology (ART). This has led to lengthy debates over regulation, particularly in terms of how to protect the rights and welfare of everyone involved, and how to make sure the resulting children can know their origins and human connections. New Zealand’s recent record on these issues has been generally good in global terms. But outdated legislation has still not been revised to deal with them fully, and major recent reform projects on adoption and surrogacy law have not yet resulted in change.
The final chapter looks at the many local and global risks now facing human reproduction. Taking effective action to tackle these equitably is just as urgent as taking action on climate change.
A Question of Adoption: Closed Stranger Adoption in New Zealand 1944–1974 and Adoption, State Care, Donor Conception and Surrogacy 1975–2022.
Anne Else with Maria Haenga-Collins
Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2023
Online e-book, 534 pages.
Available also from Amazon (Kindle edition), Google Play, and Kobo.