Adopting a child

Adopting a Child

How do I begin to adopt a child?

If you want to adopt a child, whether in Ireland or abroad, the fist step is to contact a Registered Adoption Society or your nearest Health Service Executive (HSE) Area. An adoption is a complex legal process and it is helpful to be aware of the basics of adoption law.

  • Only Registered Adoption Societies (a full list can be found at and HSE areas are entitled to place children for adoption.
  • All applications for adoption orders are submitted to the adoption board to be assessed.
  • Legal adoption in Ireland is permanent and any child adopted is secured legally as a member of his or her adoptive family.

Who is allowed to adopt?

There are a number of limitations on the people who are allowed to adopt a child in Ireland. Primarily, adoption is by married couples. This might be in the case of a childless couple adopting a child together, or where one partner in a marriage adopts a child with the consent of his or her partner. The latter often occurs where one person adopts a child of their partner's from a previous relationship. The marriage must be separated in order for a married person not to need the consent of their partner to adopt.

Widows and widowers are also considered as adopters, as are blood relatives of the child. Occasionally, other single people may be considered as adoptive parents, but only singly – unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt jointly. Anyone adopting a child in Ireland must be resident in the State and at least 21 years of age.

If the child is being adopted by a married couple and one of them is the mother or father or a relative of the child, only one of them must be 21 years old. There is no upper age limit, but this is definitely a factor that comes into the assessment of the adoption application – most adoption agencies apply their own age limit.

Which children are eligible to be adopted?

The various Adoption Acts permit the adoption of orphans, children born outside of marriage and in exceptional cases, children whose parents are considered by the High Court to have failed in their duty towards them.

Children born to a married woman are legally considered to be the children of her husband also. If this is not the case, as for example when a marriage is over but not divorced and the woman has a child with a new partner, it may be necessary for that partner to legally adopt his own child. The facts of the child's paternity must be proven to the satisfaction of the Adoption Board. The child must also reside in the State, be at least six weeks old and under 18 years of age. The child need not have been born in this country.

How will I be assessed?

Adoption applications can be lengthy procedures, even when the individual case may be uncontested and seem perfectly straightforward. The welfare of the child is paramount at all times and it is important to remember that what is being assessed is the best outcome for the child. This obviously includes the child's own wishes, if they are of an age to vocalise them. Over the age of seven, a child must be consulted and have their opinion heard.

The Adoption Board will not make an adoption order unless it is satisfied that both prospective parents are suitable individuals to adopt that particular child. To assure themselves of this, the board requires that adoption agencies rigorously assess couples prior to the adoption. There will be joint and individual interviews, home visits by social workers and medical examinations. The child may be issued into the couple's care for a period of over six months before a final decision is made and the child will be checked on a regular basis while with prospective adoptive parents.

For further information on adoption assessments, contact the Adoption Board at

Can I adopt a child from overseas?

While adoptions in Ireland have become increasingly rare in recent years, many prospective parents are now looking abroad to adopt a child. This process is called Inter-country Adoption.

If you wish to adopt in another country, you are required to undergo an assessment by your local HSE Area or registered Adoption Society. The assessment report is then forwarded to the Adoption Board, which is responsible for making declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt abroad. This is important, as you will have to produce these documents to the foreign adoption authorities as evidence that you have been approved for an inter-country adoption.

It is very important to check with the Adoption Board whether the adoption law of the country you are hoping to adopt in complies with Irish adoption law, or whether the adoption can be registered when you return home. This will help you to avoid embarking on an expensive and lengthy process that may not be legally recognised in Ireland. The Adoption Board in Ireland currently has working arrangements with four different countries: China, Thailand, Belarus and the Philippines.

Hague Convention

One of the major pending developments in the intercountry adoption arena is the forthcoming ratification by Ireland of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The convention is aimed at safeguarding children and establishing a system of co-operation amongst countries.

Ratification of this Convention will involve major and fundamental amendment of our intercountry adoption laws. Under new legislation being drawn up, adoptions will only be allowed from Hague Convention countries or countries with which there is a bilateral agreement.

Reviewed: September 21, 2006


Anonymous - 24/09/2005 18:42

My husband and I are keen to find out our options in adopting a child from overseas and are wondering who to contact locally to discuss this matter. We live in South Dublin. Can anyone help?

Anonymous - 14/10/2006 15:02

my husband and I are moving to mayo soon to be with his family. We are living in the UK at present and would like to adopt a child. How would we go about this while still living abroad

stephoghens - 02/01/2007 21:38

I wish to adopt from overseas. Who do I contact about this?

kiki - 14/03/2007 11:46

I am a single parent who is interested in adopting a child from overseas. Is this possible and who can i contact.

pippin - 18/05/2007 15:41

Myself and my husband would love to adopt a child from abroad. I am just wondering if you can register to adopt while undergoing fertility treatment. Currently on clomid but no idea what the future holds. Despite the fact this has happened to us and it is a huge blow I have always wanted to adopt a baby also. As there is a huge timeframe between applying and actually successfully adopting I am just wondering if its possible to register now or am I jumping the gun.

Sparks - 07/08/2007 22:55

I am living with my partner and her daughter. We are due our baby in December. & I would like to adopt her daughter. What do I have to do? Would I qualify for adopting her daughter?

Mimi - 27/10/2007 15:30

I'm married and have had 1 unsuccessful IVF treatment - I'm looking now to register for adoption and start the whole process rolling - any advice on where to start?

filo - 07/07/2011 22:44

My husband and I would like to adopt. We would welcome any advice from someone who has been through the process or going through it now? 

Javier - 22/05/2017 15:06

My wife and I are parents of two children, we feel like our family is incomplete but my wife is 44 years old and she is afraid of undergoing a natural birth so we are looking for the possibility of adopting a child in Ireland.

If anyone has any comments please let us know, we will appreciate it!



MJHZ - 28/03/2018 02:02

My lovely, kind daughter, who is 33, and her wonderful husband of five years, who is 34, have been unsuccessful in having a family.  They are very open to adoption, and would, in fact, have adopted long ago were it not so prohibitively expensive here in Canada.  My family is of Irish heritage and my daughter and her husband would love to adopt an Irish child if there is one that is in need of a loving, supportive, caring home.  Is it possible to for Canadians to adopt a child in Ireland and bring them to Canada?

pettyJuanita - 10/05/2018 12:42


hope you are well,you must follow Intercountry adoption procedures for the best interests of the child,this include requiring proof that the biological parents have given their free and informed consent to the adoption before it takes place, and confirming that the adoption follows the laws of both countries. With respect to children who may be orphaned, it is international policy and practice to try to first find homes for them in their own country before uprooting and placing them in a foreign country.and please check some international adoption agents also as Canada is a party to the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions. The Hague Convention aims to protect children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is the Federal Central Authority for the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and it, along with the provinces and territories, is responsible for the implementation of the Convention.

Nickname: to be used for all future posts.
Notification: Tick this box if you wish to receive e-mail notifications of further posts on this topic