Both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples that are unmarried will be able to adopt children from tomorrow.
The Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 requires that couples be living together for a minimum of three years before they can apply to adopt a child together.
Dr Geoffrey Shannon, the Chairperson of the Adoption Authority of Ireland, welcomed the commencement order for the new legislation which was signed by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone yesterday.
While this may progress equality for same-sex couples in a post-marriage equality Ireland, that is simply a by-product of the new legislation. The top priority for the new Adoption Act is to improve the welfare of each child being adopted.
“I am conscious of [the] importance of providing an adoption process where children’s best interests are always at the heart of decisions,” Zappone said.
The best interests of the child are recognised as the most important consideration in any adoption application
The new legislation will allow unmarried couples who meet the eligibility criteria to adopt a child together, whereas previously only one member was able to apply to adopt.
Patricia Carey, the CEO of the Adoption Authority of Ireland, said that now the needs of children can be given top priority, with the opinion of the child considered “very important”, reports The Independent.
“The best interests of the child are recognised as the most important consideration in any adoption application,” said Carey.
“There is a detailed list of considerations in the amendment to be applied when judging the best interests of the child. 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.”
In addition, children are no longer distinguished as being older or under seven years of age. Now, the only legal distinction with regard to a child’s age is that they be under eighteen years old.
With the commencement of this new legislation, a larger number of children from the foster care system will also be able to be adopted.
The Adoption Authority of Ireland summarised the main changes that the 2017 amendment introduces:
- All children can now 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 in any adoption application. There is a detailed list of considerations in the amendment to be applied when judging the best interests of the child. 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 7 years of age when being adopted has been removed. Now the only legal distinction about a child’s age is that he/she still must be under 18 years of age.
- Any couple living together in a Civil Partnership or Co-Habiting together for at least 3 years can now apply to adopt a child. Previously only married couples or individual applicants could apply to adopt.
- Step-parents can now 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 now recognised in the Act. The definition of relevant non- guardian is broad but in basic terms is a person who is recognised as the parent of a child but is not a guardian, or is a type of guardian who doesn’t have the right to consent to an adoption. They 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.
- Cases which need to be decided by the High Court, when the parents of the child cannot or will not consent to an adoption, now require more consideration to the attempts of those parents to raise the child. For example, the child must be out of their care for a longer period of time.
© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.