Adoption reform bill comes into force this week

It will mean a greater number of foster care adoptions

Adoption reform bill comes into force this week

Children's Minister Dr Katherine Zappone at a press briefing in Government Buildings in relation to Budget 2018 | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A law reforming adoptions in Ireland is set to come into force from Thursday.

The Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 will come into effect following the signing on Tuesday of the Commencement Order by Minister Katherine Zappone.

The legislation changes various parts of the Adoption Act 2010, which govern how all adoptions in Ireland are carried out.

It also brings some policy changes into effect from the 2012 children's rights referendum.

It will mean a greater number of children from the foster care system can now be adopted.

While all children will be considered equally in terms of their eligibility for adoption - the fact that they were adopted previously or born to married parents is no longer an automatic restriction.

The best interests of the child are recognised as the most important consideration - there is a detailed list of considerations in the amendment to be applied when judging this.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland say these focus on how an adoption will likely affect the child, and it also makes it clear that the child's own opinion is very important.

A distinction about a child being over or under seven years of age when being adopted has also been removed.

The only legal distinction about a child's age is that they still must be under 18.

'Relevant non-guardians'

Any couple living together in a civil partnership or co-habiting for at least three years can apply to adopt a child under the new law.

Previously, only married couples or individual applicants could apply.

Step-parents can also apply to adopt their partner's child without that partner, who is already the parent of the child, also applying to adopt the child.

'Relevant non-guardians' are also recognised in the act.

While this definition is broad, it applies to a person who is recognised as the parent of a child but is not a guardian - or is a type of guardian who does not have the right to consent to an adoption.

They also have a right to be consulted about the adoption of the child, similar to what fathers (without guardianship rights) already had under the previous version of the act.