Intercountry Adoption

What is intercountry adoption?

Adoption assessment process

Eligibility criteria

Suitability criteria

Frequently asked questions

Intercountry adoption offices

What is intercountry adoption?

Intercountry adoption is where a child living outside Ireland is adopted and brought to live in Ireland. People resident in Ireland who wish to adopt abroad are required to have their eligibility and suitability assessed based on the Standardized Framework for Intercountry Adoption Assessment before they travel abroad, if their adoption order is to be recognised under Irish Law.

Intercountry adoption started late in Ireland, relative to other Western countries. In the late 1980s media attention was focused on the plight of children in orphanages in Romania. This led to an unprecedented number of Irish couples going to Romania to arrange the adoption of a child. Since then more and more Irish couples have been turning to intercountry adoption as an option and many foreign children have been adopted by Irish couples under Adoption Laws both here and abroad.

From 1991 to 2002, 1,766 children have been adopted abroad. The majority of these children have Romanian origins. Recently countries such as Russia, Guatemala, China, Thailand, Belarus and India have become more "popular" countries of origin.

Social changes in Ireland in the 1980s led to the introduction of Foreign Adoption Acts 1991-1998

The HSE Intercountry Adoption service carries out assessments based on the Standardized Framework for Intercountry Adoption Assesment where clients must meet the Five Standards on behalf of the Adoption Board.  The service works closely with the Adoption Board.

The Adoption Board is the statutory body whose committee ultimately determines the suitability and eligibility of prospective adopters, based on the recommendation of the social worker’s final report. The Adoption Board also regulates inter-country agreements and determines which countries’ children are legally recognised for adoption by Irish parents. For more information on the role of the Adoption Board and the countries currently open for intercountry adoption see or


Adoption assessment process

Initial: You make contact with the health board or registered adoption society. If you want to proceed you ask for the
relevant forms to be sent out.

Application: You complete your form and forward it to the local health board or agency and a preliminary assessment is carried out.

Education/ Preparation: This consists of structured group sessions organised by the health board or agency. The course is a prerequisite for
moving on to the next stage.

Home Study/Assessment: You will be assigned a social worker who will carry out a series of interviews. At least one of these will be in your home. A final report will be prepared by the social worker.

Decision: Your assessing agency's placement committee will consider the social workers report and recommendation in the case
and make a recommendation to the Adoption Board. The Adoption Board will decide whether to issue a declaration of eligibility and suitability on this basis.

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Eligibility criteria

The eligibility criteria for adoption are provided for under the Adoption Acts 1952-1998. In order to be eligible to adopt you must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. You are a married couple living together. This is the only circumstance where the law permits the adoption of a child by more than one person;
  2. You are a married person living alone. In this circumstance the spouse's consent to the adoption must be obtained, unless they are living apart and are separated under (i) a court decree, (ii) a deed of separation, (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;
  3. You are 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);
  4. You are a widow/widower;
  5. You are a sole applicant not covered in any of the categories above and the Adoption Board is satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it is desirable to grant an order.

There is a minimum age limit for adoption. You must be at least 21 years of age if the child is not a relative. If the child is to be adopted by the natural father or mother, or a relative of the child, only one of you must be 21.You must be habitually esident in the State and must have resided in the State for at least one year before the date of the making of the Adoption Order.

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Suitability Criteria

Suitability assessments may only be carried out by the HSE  / Registered Adoption Society. In accordance with section 8(1) of the Adoption Act, 1991 the HSE must carry out assessments for persons ordinarily resident in its functional area. Registered Adoption Societies may carry out assessments on behalf of the HSE or at the request of those wishing to adopt abroad but are not obliged to do so.

In assessing your suitability regard shall be had to the following standards:

1.     The capacity to safeguard the child throughout his or her childhood;

2.     The capacity to provide the child with family life that will promote his or her development and well being and have due regard to the physical, emotional, social, health, educational, cultural, spiritual and other dimensions. The resources that families can draw on will vary from family to family and may change over time. Whatever circumstances the family find themselves in, the applicant/s will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of maintaining an on-going and meaningful relationship with their child;

The applicant should demonstrate "a capacity to sustain meaningful adult relationships which are likely to be supportive to the stressess of parenting" (Standardised framework)

Domestic arrangements to enable you to provide security, safety and commitment to children during their childhood

3.     The capacity to provide an environment where the child's original nationality, race, culture, language and religion will be valued and appropriately promoted throughout childhood. This will include the capacity of the parent/s to recognise the differences between themselves and their child within these areas and to recognise and try to combat racism and other institutional and personal oppressive forces within society;

How will you maintain links with your child's langugae, country, culture, race and religion?
Can you recognise racism? How will you deal with it?

4.     The capacity to recognise and understand the impact of being an adopted child from an overseas country on the development of the child's identity throughout their childhood and beyond;

Can you be sensitive to your child's losses to date?
What importance do you give to your child's past?
How will you promote positibe links with your child's past?

5.     The capacity to recognise the need for and to arrange for appropriate support and intervention from health, social services, educational, and other services throughout childhood

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Frequently asked questions

Who can apply to Intercountry Adoption Services to adopt a child?
A married couple living together
A married person living alone in certain circumstances
A relative of the child
A widow or widower
A sole applicant
A sole applicant in a Co-habiting relationship

Do we get our original documents back?
Yes. All original documents are returned

Is Garda Clearance required?
Yes. Garda Clearance forms are supplied by the Intercounty Adoption service.  Applicants complete the form and the intercountry adoption service send them to the Garda Clearance section.

Is foreign Police clearance required?
Foreign police clearance is required if an applicant has lived outside the Republic of Ireland for 6 consecutive months.

How do I obtain foreign police clearance?
If applicants have lived in a Federal State, i.e USA, a state and local police clearance are required.  If applicants have lived in the UK, make a Data Protection Access Request through any UK police station.  If necessary, a translation is also required.

Do you have to be an Irish citizen to adopt a child Intercountry?
No. However, an applicant must be a permanent resident in Ireland for the previous 12 months. Individual queries should be directed to the Adoption Board.

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How do I choose a country from which to adopt?
It is important to have a genuine interest in your country of choice. Find out all you can by researching the country’s people, culture, history and customs. If  possible try to meet people from the country to further your learning.

Is there an age criteria?
No age limit exists under current legislation for Intercountry Adoption.  
Age is a factor in assessing suitability.


Can I apply to adopt if I am undergoing fertility treatment?
Yes.  We encourage applicants to have completed fertility investigations prior to pursuing adoption. This recommendation is also made in the best interest of a child.

Do I have to undergo fertility investigations prior to applying to adopt a child Intercountry?
No. However, we encourage applicants to investigate the reasons for their infertility.

Can I apply to adopt a child from abroad if I have birth children?
Yes. Your birth child should be at least nine months old before you begin the assessment process.  Also, there should be a two year age gap between your birth child and your adopted child at the time of placement.


Intercountry adoption offices

Contact your local intercounty adoption office

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