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Children can now be adopted by their foster carers after 18 months

The Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016 has passed its final stages in Dáil Éireann.

Image: iLpO88 via Shutterstock

A BILL HAS passed to allow children to be adopted by their foster carers, where they have cared for the child for at least 18 months.

The Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016 brings legislative changes to the 2012 children’s rights referendum.

The legislation will now ensure that where the child’s parents have failed in their parental duty to the child for 36 months, the High Court can proceed without parental consent and allow the Adoption Authority to make an adoption order for the child.

The amendments have been welcomed by the Irish Foster Care Association.

“This amendment will offer many children stability in their lives,” the association’s CEO Catherine Bond said.

The Bill by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone also ensures that the best interests of the child are to be “the paramount consideration” in the adoption process.

The views of the child shall be ascertained by the Adoption Authority or by the court, as the case may be, and shall be given due weight, having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

Parental support 

Although the Bill provides further access for foster carers to seek adoption, the Bill outlines support for parents whose children have not yet been adopted by their carers.

An amendment tabled by Senator Lynn Ruane will now see an obligation on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to offer supports to birth parents who have had their child taken into foster care with the hope of increasing the chances of a “positive” family reunification.

Ruane said:

Throughout my time working in the areas of homelessness and addiction, I have supported many parents who have struggled to overcome personal challenges when their child is taken into foster care.

“They often never get the chance to address those challenges because the supports they need are never offered. As a result of my amendment, this will no longer be the case.”

Married parents will now be allowed to place their child up for adoption, on a voluntary basis, in circumstances where both parents consent to the decision.

Step parents will be permitted to adopt their step child without the requirement for the child’s other parent to adopt their own child.

The Bill allows for the adoption of a child by civil partners and cohabiting couples.

It also contains an amendment brought in by Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, which is a vital step in bringing Ireland’s adoption laws in line the rights of a child as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children’s Rights referendum of 2012.

“An open or semi-open option could ensure that we are getting this right and giving everyone the post-adoption supports they need,” Higgins said.

Zappone said:

“I welcome the passage of the important child-centred Bill through the House of Oireachtas. I am conscious of the importance of providing for an adoption process that is fully inclusive of everyone involved, and where children’s best interests are always at the heart of decisions involving them.”

Read: Explainer: What is Dáil privilege and how can it be breached?

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