Adoption Services Information

What is adoption?

Who may adopt

Adoption process

Children eligible for adoption

How to apply

 

What is adoption?

Domestic Adoption means the transfer on a permanent basis of parental rights and duties for children of from birth parents to adoptive parents. Adoption is therefore a permanent legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the child. The child has the same legal rights as if they were born in the adoptive family.

Only Adoption Societies and the HSE are legally entitled to place children for adoption.

If you want to adopt a child, whether in Ireland or abroad, the first step is to contact a Registered Adoption Society or your

Local Adoption Office.

Applicants being considered by an adoption agency will undergo a detailed assessment. This assessment takes place over a period of time, ranging from 9 to 15 months, sometimes longer. The purpose of this assessment is to establish applicants' suitability as prospective adoptive parents. The assessment is carried out by a social worker. It includes a number of interviews and home visits. Where the application is from a married couple, there will be both individual and joint interviews. The social worker will discuss such areas as previous and/or current relationships, motives for adopting, expectations of the child and the ability to help a child to develop his/her knowledge and understanding of his/her natural background. All applicants are required to undergo a medical examination. If planning to adopt abroad, the assessment will include issues surrounding the child's cultural background and possible special needs.

To find out more about adoption read the Adoption Boards booklet An Outline of Adoption Law and Procedure

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Who may adopt

The following persons are eligible to adopt:-

a) a married couple living together; this is the only circumstance where the law permits the adoption of a child by more than one person:

b) 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;

c) 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);

d) a widow or widower.

A sole applicant who does not come within the classes of persons defined under (c) and (d) above may only adopt where the Board 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

Minimum age
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.

Upper Age
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 and most adoption agencies apply their own upper age limits.

Residency of adopters
Adopting parents must be ordinarily resident in the State and have been so resident for at least one year before the date of the making of the adoption order.

Religion
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.

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Consent
The consent of the parent/guardian of the child to the adoption is a legal requirement. If the child is born outside marriage, and the father has no guardianship rights, only the mother's consent is needed. Under the Adoption Act 1998, however, birth fathers are now being consulted (if possible) about the adoption of their children. In situations where the parents are not married and the father does not have guardianship rights, his consent is not necessary for adoption. However, the consent of the father is required if he marries the mother after the birth of the child or he is appointed guardian or is granted custody of the child by court order.

The mother, father (where he is guardian) or other legal guardian must give an initial consent or agreement to the placing of a child for adoption by a Registered Adoption Society. He/she must then give his/her consent to the making of an Adoption Order. This consent may be withdrawn any time before the making of the Adoption Order.

If the mother either refuses consent or withdraws consent already given, the adopting parents may apply to the High Court for an order. If the court is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child, it will make an order giving custody of the child to the adopting parents for a specified period and authorising the Adoption Board to dispense with the mother's consent to the making of the Adoption Order.

If a mother changes her mind about adoption before the making of the Adoption Order, but the adopting parents refuse to give up the child, she may then institute legal proceedings to have custody of her child returned to her.

When an Adoption Order is made, a new birth certificate can be obtained for the child. Although it is not an actual birth certificate, it has the status of one for legal purposes. It gives the date of the Adoption Order and the names and addresses of the adoptive parents and is similar in all aspects to a birth certificate.

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Adoption Process

1. A parent or relative wishing to adopt a child either alone or with a spouse should contact the Adoption Board for information as to the procedure involved.

2. A couple wishing to have a child placed with them for adoption should apply to one of the Registered Adoption Societies or their local HSE Area.

3. A couple being considered by an adoption agency will have to undergo a detailed assessment.  The purpose of this assessment is to establish the couple's suitability as prospective adoptive parents.  The assessment will be carried out by one of the adoption agency's/HSE  social workers.  It will include a number of joint and individual interviews and visits to the couple's home.  The social worker will discuss such areas as the couple's 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 couple will also have to undergo a medical examination.

4. If a couple are accepted by an adoption agency and have a child placed with them, the next step is to apply to the Adoption Board for an adoption order.  Certain documents must be sent to the Board in support of the application.  The agency will know what documents are required and will probably already have obtained them from the couple before placement.

5. The Adoption Board cannot make an adoption order unless it is satisfied as to the suitability of the adopting parents.  The Board has a team of social workers who visit the homes of applicants for adoption orders and report to the Board on their suitability.  On receipt of an application for an adoption order, the Board assigns one of its social workers to the application.  The social worker will normally make at least two visits to the applicants' home.

6. The Adoption Board does not usually finalise an adoption until the adopting parents have had the child in their care for at least six months.  The Board may require the applicants to have the child in their care for a longer period in certain circumstances.

7. When the Adoption Board is satisfied that an adoption is ready to be finalised, it will invite the adopting parents to attend before it with the child for the hearing of their application.   At the oral hearing, the applicants are asked certain questions on oath in order to establish their identity and eligibility to adopt and if the Board is satisfied as to the applicant(s) eligibility and suitability to adopt it will then proceed to make an adoption order in their favour. 

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Children eligible for adoption

The law permits the adoption of:

(a)        orphans, and

(b)        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 an order 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 Board.

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 agency cannot place a child for adoption until the child is at least four weeks old.

In making an adoption order the Adoption Board must regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.

 

 

How to apply

If you want to adopt a child, whether in Ireland or abroad, the first step is to contact a Registered Adoption Society or your

Local Adoption Office.

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