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Adoption: 41,000 have sought reunion since 1985

15 September 2006

41,000 have sought reunion since 1985 – NZ speaker tells world adoption conference in New York today

More than 41,000 people affected by adoption have sought to reunion since the adoption act came into law 21 years ago, a New Zealand guest speaker told the world adoption conference in New York today.

New Zealand’s Julia Cantrell was addressing the international event at Fordham University in the Bronx.

``When adoption legislation came into effect on March 1 1985, New Zealand was the first country to give rights to both adopted people over the age of twenty, and birth parents, to obtain identifying information from official records,’’ Cantrell said.

``Since the implementation of the Act, over 32,000 adopted persons and 9000 birth parents have applied to Child, Youth and Family seeking identifying information.

``The statistics reflect an initial flood of interest from those intending to seek information soon after the Act came into law and then applications have steadily tapered off.’’

Cantrell is the first New Zealand adoptee expert to be invited to a major world adoption conference in the United States.

She told the conference how New Zealand changed its laws in 1985 to allow adoptees to trace their first families.

``Adoption in New Zealand in the 1960s and 70s saw thousands of babies every year placed in stranger families. In a country of only four million, this means now we have over half of our population affected in some direct way by adoption. ‘’

She said many of the issues from the conference this weekend would be discussed at the international adoption conference in Christchurch in 2008.

``A large number of people in New Zealand who continue to live with the complexities of reunion and its aftermath day by day are drawn to these conferences.’’

Cantrell also outlined to the conference her traumatic journey of searching the UK and the USA for her birth parents.

She attended the New York conference as a representative of the Canterbury Adoption Awareness and Education Trust.

The trust was established in April 1997 to provide an umbrella organisation for an international conference at Lincoln University in 1998.

The trust has continued to pursue its aims of promoting awareness and education about adoption and reunion issues in New Zealand.

New Zealand has led the world in opening adoption records since 1985, but two decades on reunions between birth parents and their relinquished children (now themselves adults) are still characterised by complexity, intense emotions and misunderstandings.

``There is a huge need to provide support and information with a New Zealand flavour which is why we are running another international conference in Christchurch in 2008,’’ she said.


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