Call for Changes to Adoption Legislation

July 15th, 2014

It seems an extraordinary statistic that of 116 adoptions last year, eighty-six involved natural mothers adopting their own children. One would be forgiven for asking how this state of affairs could come about, but it is as a result of the existing adoption legislation.

There has been an increase in calls from the Adoption Authority of Ireland, lone parent organisations, and legal practitioners for changes to legislation which currently requires mothers to adopt their own children when their new partners apply to adopt them.

The current process involves the mother and her husband being assessed for eligibility for adoption by the Child and Family Agency. An assessment would be carried out by a social worker. The husband and the mother of the child must be Garda vetted and there must also be social protection clearance from other countries that she has lived in.

Under current legislation, the only persons who are eligible to adopt are a married couple or a single person. In circumstances where an application has been made, natural fathers must be notified of adoptions, unless notification is not possible. This was an issue that featured in a number of recent decisions of Mr. Justice Abbott who agreed to dispense with the requirement in a number of recent cases.

The Child and Family Relationships Bill, which is currently at consultation phase, includes an element to allow a man or woman to become a guardian of his or her partner’s child without having to adopt. At present, the only way in which partner can become a guardian is to adopt.

Changes to the current legislation may require an amendment to the Constitution. There is no doubt, however, that the current regime is extremely unfair on mothers and a significant bar to partners /husbands adopting in circumstances in where it may well be in the best interests of the child.

July 2014