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 www.adoptionauthority.ie) 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 www.adoptionauthority.ie.
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.
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.