What is adoption?
Adoption is a process by which a child becomes a member of a new family. It creates a permanent legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the child.
Who arranges adoptions?
Only Registered Accredited Bodies and Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) are legally entitled to place children for adoption. Adoption services provided by the Accredited Bodies and Tusla/Child and Family Agency can be found here.
What is an adoption order?
An adoption order secures in law the position of the child in the adoptive family. On the making of the adoption order the parent(s) lose(s) all legal rights over the child and is freed from all duties. These rights and duties are transferred to the adoptive parents. The child is regarded in law as the child of the adoptive parents as if he/she were born to them in marriage. Legal adoption is permanent.
Children eligible for adoption in Ireland
The law permits the adoption of:
- orphans, and
- children born outside marriage, including in certain circumstances, children whose natural parents subsequently marry each other.
In addition, in exceptional cases, the High Court may make orders under section 54 of the Adoption Act 2010, authorising the adoption of children whose parents have failed in their duty of care towards them. Children born within marriage may be adopted under this provision.
A child born outside marriage who is legitimated by the subsequent marriage of the natural parents is eligible for adoption provided his/her birth has not been re-registered.
A child born to a married woman, but whose husband is not the father, is eligible for adoption provided the facts of the child's paternity can be proven to the satisfaction of the Adoption Authority.
The child must 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. An accredited body cannot place a child for adoption until the child is at least six weeks old.
The welfare of the child
Adoption is for the benefit of children. The child is the most important person in the whole process. This principle is embodied in law, which requires the Adoption Authority or any Court, when dealing with any matter relating to an adoption, to regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.
The Child’s wishes
The Adoption Authority must take into account the wishes of a child who is more than seven years of age at the date of an application for an adoption order where it is appropriate to do so.
Who may adopt?
The following persons are eligible to adopt:
- a married couple living together; this is the only circumstance where the law permits the adoption of a child by more than one person;
- a married person alone; in this circumstance the spouse's consent to adopt must be obtained, unless they are living apart and are separated under (i) a court decree or (ii) deed of separation or (iii) the spouse has deserted the prospective adopter or (iv) conduct on the part of the spouse results in the prospective adopter, with just cause, leaving the spouse and living apart;
- the mother, father or a relative of the child (relative meaning a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the child and/or the spouse of any such person, the relationship to the child being traced through the mother or the father);
A sole applicant who does not come within the classes of persons defined above may only adopt where the Authority is satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it is desirable to grant an order. It is not possible for two unmarried persons to adopt jointly.
Ages of adopters
A couple adopting a child to whom they are not related must both be at least 21 years of age.
Where 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 have attained the age of 21 years.
The law does not lay down upper age limits for adopting parents. However, age is a significant factor when assessing a couple's suitability to adopt.
Residency of adopters
Adopting parents must be habitually resident in the State.
Where the adopting parents, the child and the parent(s) are not all of the same religion, the parent(s) must know the religion (if any) of each of the adopting parents when giving consent to the child's adoption.
The Adoption Board cannot make an adoption order unless it is satisfied that each of the adopting parents is a suitable person to have parental rights and duties in respect of the child.
Whose consent is required?
The consent of every person being a parent or guardian of the child or having charge of or control over the child is normally required to:
- the placing of a child for adoption, and
- the making of an adoption order for the child.
As most children placed for adoption are born outside marriage, the consent of the mother only is normally required.
The consent of the father is required where:
- he marries the mother after the birth of the child, or
- he is appointed a guardian of the child or is granted custody of the child pursuant to a court order or otherwise.
The Adoption Act, 2010 provides for the consultation of the father of a child who is the subject of an adoption application or a proposed adoption placement, but in exceptional circumstances the High Court may authorise the placement or application to proceed without such consultation where the father is not a guardian of the child.
Consent to Placement
Where the child's adoption is being arranged by a registered accredited body, the mother, father (where he is a guardian) or other legal guardian must give an initial consent or agreement to the placing of the child for adoption by the accredited body. This may be given at any time after the birth of the child.
Consent to Adoption Order
Consent to the making of an adoption order may not be given until the child is at least six weeks old. It may not be given earlier than three months before the date of the application for the adoption order.
Consent to the making of an adoption order may be withdrawn at any time before the making of the adoption order.
Consent to the making of an adoption order must be given in a form prescribed by Statutory Instrument.
The Adoption Authority must satisfy itself that every person who has given consent to the making of an adoption order understands the nature and effect of the consent and of the adoption order and of certain legal rights. In order to comply with this requirement, the Authority appoints "authorised persons" to interview the consenting party (usually the mother) on its behalf. After the person has given consent he/she is interviewed by an "authorised person", who completes a questionnaire with him/her.
Dispensing with consent
The Adoption Board may dispense with consent if it is satisfied that the person whose consent is required is incapable by reason of mental infirmity of giving consent or cannot be found.
Where a mother who has initially agreed to the placing of her child for adoption fails, neglects or refuses to give her consent to the making of an adoption order, or withdraws a consent already given, it is open to the adopting parents, if they have applied for an adoption order for the child, to apply to the High Court for an order under section 31 of the Adoption Act, 2010. The High Court, if it is satisfied that it is in the best interest of the child to do so, may make an order under that section (a) giving custody of the child to the adopting parents for a specified period, and (b) authorising the Adoption Authority to dispense with the mother's consent to the making of an adoption order in favour of them during that period.
Consent is not required to the adoption of a child in respect of whom the High Court has made an order under section 33 of the Adoption Act, 2010.
Reclaim of child
If a mother changes her mind about adoption before the making of the adoption order and seeks to reclaim her child but the adopting parents refuse to give up the child, then it is open to her to institute legal proceedings to have custody of the child restored to her.
Birth certificates of adopted children
When an adoption order is made, a new "birth" certificate may be obtained for the child. The certificate issued is not an actual birth certificate but a certified copy of the entry relating to the child in the Adopted Children Register. However, for all legal purposes it has the status of a birth certificate. The long form of the certificate gives the date of the adoption order and the name(s) and address of the adoptive parent(s).
The only circumstances in which a further adoption order may be made for the same child are (a) where his/her adoptive parents (or parent in the case of the sole adopter) have died, or (b) where the High Court makes an order under section 54 of the Adoption Act, 2010, in respect of the child.
Since the vast majority of adoptive parents in Ireland are married couples, the following notice is written in the plural for ease of reading. Under certain circumstances, sole applicants may also adopt.
Persons wishing to have a child placed with them for adoption should apply to one of the Registered Accredited Bodies or their local Tusla/Child and Family Agency Regional Adoption Service. The Accredited Bodies are listed here. As there are far more people wanting to adopt than there are children available for adoption in Ireland, not every person who applies to an adoption agency will be successful. A table outlining the number of infant adoptions in Ireland in recent years is available here.
Persons being considered by an accredited body or Tusla/CFA will have to have undergone a detailed assessment and be the holders of a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability. The purpose of this assessment is to establish the couple's suitability as prospective adoptive parents. The assessment will be carried out by Tusla/CFA or by another accredited body. It will include a number of joint and individual interviews and visits to the applicants’ home. The social worker will discuss such areas as the relationship, their motives for adopting, their expectations of the child and their ability to help the child to a knowledge and understanding of his/her natural background. The applicants will also have to undergo a medical examination. For further information on getting assessed, click here.
If prospective adoptive parents are accepted by Tusla/CFA or an accredited body and have a child placed with them, the next step is to apply to the Adoption Authority for an adoption order. Certain documents must be sent to the Authority in support of the application. The accredited body will know what documents are required and may have already already have obtained them from the applicant before placement.
The Adoption Authority does not usually finalise an adoption until the prospective adoptive parents have had the child in their care for at least six months. The Authority may require the applicants to have the child in their care for a longer period in certain circumstances.
When the Adoption Authority is satisfied that an adoption is ready to be finalised, it will invite the prospective adoptive parents to attend before it with the child for the hearing of their application. At the hearing, the applicants are asked certain questions on oath in order to establish their identity and eligibility to adopt. If the child is over 7 years of age he/she will usually be asked to verify at the hearing that he/she wants to proceed with the adoption (if this is appropriate). If the Authority is satisfied as to the applicants eligibility and suitability to adopt it will then proceed to make an adoption order in their favour.
After the adoption order is made, the details for the entry in the Adopted Children’s Register are sent by the Adoption Authority to the General Register Office. The child’s original birth certificate remains on the Register and is unaltered. The applicants are provided with a letter on the day of the adoption outlining what they need to do to obtain the new certificate. After the making of the adoption order, in any situation requiring the production of a birth certificate, the extract from the Adopted Children’s Register i.e. the adoption certificate is acceptable.
A certificate is not available immediately and queries in relation to the issuance of the new certificate should be directed to the General Register Office, Government Buildings, Convent Road, Roscommon, LoCall 1890 252076 (www.gro.ie).
No fees are payable to the Adoption Board in consideration of an adoption application.