Adoption rights campaigner hits back at calls to change age limit on adoption

Senator Reilly thinks the current rules are antiquated and need updating

Adoption rights campaigner hits back at calls to change age limit on adoption

Stock Image | Via: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The former Children's Minister James Reilly has called for a change to a rule that forbids adoption if there is more than 40 years of age between the parent and child.

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, Senator Reilly appealed to the current Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone to update the antiquated guidelines on adoption.

He said he had consulted with the Master of the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street who indicated that there has been an increase in women giving birth over 40, and that people are now healthier and are living longer.

However, the head of the Adoption Rights Alliance doesn't think this should be the case.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Susan Lohan said that 42 should be the cut-off age for those wanting to adopt children.

She said that legislators are focusing on the "very narrow needs of a small number of adults" and are not considering the "best interests of the child".

"It's absolutely essential and follows best practice internationally that any prospective adoptive parents should be of an age and of good health to raise the adoptive child through their childhood, up to adulthood and beyond," she said.

She expressed concern that there could be a situation where a "person of any age" could be regarded as a prospective adoptive parent.

"We wouldn't want a child orphaned twice over," she said, "If we were to push this out to people in their 50s or 60s."

Lohan also said that this rule only affects a "tiny" number of adults and by changing it "we're not actually going to benefit the fates of 1000s of children".

She said that about 100 children are adopted every year and the vast majority are 'step-parent adoptions'.

These applications are made in cases where the birth mother of a child marries a man who is not the birth father of that child.

It involves the birth parent giving up their sole legal rights to the child, and then taking on joint legal rights, responsibilities and guardianship with his or her spouse - essentially meaning that the birth mother must adopt her own child.

Susan Lohan said that the call by James Reilly is in reference to "stranger adoptions".

"We're not even legislating for Irish children here, most likely we're legislating for children who have been abroad probably in fairly impoverished conditions."

"This is about prospective adoptive parents seeking to push out the age limits".

Lohan also thinks that 42 is a sensible compromise.

"I know Senator Reilly mentioned that he'd spoken to the Master of the National Maternity Hospital and said that so many women over the age of 40 were having children.

"Any woman who is over the age of 40 and manages to have a child is in robust good health, because a woman's fertility falls off a cliff after that age."

She also expressed concern that Senator Reilly's comments hadn't referred to the best interests of the child.

"A child's right to have a family is at the back of inter-country adoption. People do not have a right to adopt a child."