Adoption is when you legally adopt a child and they officially become part of your family.
Domestic adoption is when you adopt a child who is resident in Ireland. There are different types of domestic adoption, for example, step-parent adoption and long-term foster care adoption.
This page explains the different types of domestic adoption, the steps involved in the adoption process, and the rules about who can adopt a child in Ireland.
You may also want to read our page about intercountry adoption, which is where you adopt a child from abroad.
Types of domestic adoption
Domestic adoption is when you adopt a child who is resident in Ireland. There are different types of domestic adoption:
Step-parent adoption is where you apply to adopt your partner’s child.
Your partner can consent (agree) to the adoption and still keep their own parental rights and responsibilities. In a step-parent adoption, you and your partner share parenting duties once the adoption order is made. Read about adoption orders in the section ‘Steps involved in adopting a child’, below.
The child must have lived with their parent and you (the prospective step-parent) together, for a minimum of 2 years.
Extended family adoption
An extended family adoption is where a member of the child’s family (or a relative), adopts the child. The child would have been placed with them by the birth mother or by the Tusla childcare system.
Domestic infant adoption
Domestic infant adoption is where a child is placed with an alternative set of parents. The child is placed with the couple by the Tusla adoption service or an accredited adoption agency. The Adoption Authority of Ireland must approve the placement before it takes place.
Long term foster care adoption
Foster care adoption is when a couple adopt a child who was originally placed with them in a foster care situation.
Find more information on the different types of domestic adoption on the Adoption Authority of Ireland’s website.
Who can adopt a child in Ireland?
To adopt a child, you must be at least 21 years of age and resident in Ireland. If you are adopting the child as a couple, and one of you is the child’s mother or father or relative, only one of you must be at least 21.
There is no upper age limit for adoptive parents.
You can adopt if you are:
- A married couple living together
- A couple living together in a civil partnership
- A couple cohabiting together (living together and in a committed relationship) for at least 3 years
- The mother, father or relative of the child (relative meaning a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the child, and/or the spouse of any such person; the relationship to the child being traced through the mother or the father)
If you are a sole applicant (applying for adoption on your own), and you do not fall into any of the categories listed above, you may only adopt if the Adoption Authority of Ireland is satisfied with the particular circumstances of the case.
Steps involved in adopting achild
To adopt a child in Ireland, you must follow certain steps, including:
Contact your local adoption office
To start the application process, you must contact your local adoption office, which is run by Tusla – the child and family agency. Your local adoption office will give you information about how to complete your ‘application for assessment’.
You are assessed
Applicants must go through a detailed assessment, including a number of interviews and home visits. The assessment is carried out by a Tusla social worker or an accredited adoption agency.
If you are applying for adoption as a married couple or as a cohabiting couple, you will be interviewed individually and together.
The social worker will ask you about your:
- Previous and current relationships
- Motives (reasons) for adopting
- Expectations of the child
- Ability to help a child develop their knowledge and understanding of their natural background (their birth story and where they came from)
All applicants must also have a medical examination and Garda vetting.
After you have been assessed, the social worker prepares an ‘assessment report’ which goes before the local adoption committee. The committee will then make a recommendation.
You are granted a ‘Declaration to Adopt’
The Adoption Authority of Ireland is sent:
- Your application for assessment
- The social worker’s report
- The local adoption committee’s recommendations
If all documents are in place and correct, the Adoption Authority of Ireland will consider the recommendations and decide whether to grant a Declaration to Adopt (sometimes called a ‘Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability’). The declaration is like a ‘license to adopt’, and may include the age and health status of a child whom you are considered suitable to parent (based on the information in the assessment report).
The Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability is granted for a period of 2 years from the date it is issued. If your declaration is about to expire, you can apply to have it extended by a further 1 year, provided there have been no changes in your circumstances.
If your circumstances have changed (for example, you moved home or your health status has changed), you must tell the Adoption Authority of Ireland in writing. Read more about what to do if your situation has changed under the heading ‘Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability’ on the Adoption Authority’s website.
The ‘best interests of the child’ are considered
The Adoption Authority of Ireland always puts the best interests of the child first. The Authority will consider:
- The child’s age and maturity
- The physical, psychological and emotional needs of the child
- The likely effect of adoption on the child
- The child’s views on their proposed adoption
- The child’s social, intellectual and educational needs
- The child’s upbringing and care
- The child’s relationship with their parent, guardian or relative as the case may be
- Any other circumstances affecting the child
An adoption order is made
An adoption order is a legal document, issued by the Adoption Authority of Ireland. It confirms that the child is, by law, a member of their new family. When an adoption order is issued, the child is legally regarded as the child of the adoptive parents, as if they were born to them.
The period of time between the granting of the declaration of eligibility and suitability to the making of an adoption order differs from one case to another depending on the type of adoption application being made and the particular circumstances of the applicants and the child.
In the case of a step-parent adoption where the child is in situ, it is expected that the application for the adoption order will progress during the lifespan of the declaration of eligibility and suitability.
Where it is a domestic infant adoption, there is no guarantee that a couple will be matched with a child during the lifetime of the declaration. Before making an adoption order the Adoption Authority of Ireland must be satisfied that the child is eligible to be adopted.
You and the child attend the adoption hearing
When the adoption order is finally being made, the child and adoptive parents go before the Board of the Adoption Authority of Ireland. The adoptive parents must give sworn evidence about their identity and eligibility.
The adoptive parents will have previously completed a form indicating the name the child wants on the adoption order. While this can be changed at the adoption hearing, it is preferable for this to be agreed on before the date of the hearing.
Read more about the adoption hearing on the Adoption Authority of Ireland's website, including age-appropriate videos and leaflets for children.
You get an adoption certificate
At the adoption hearing, you are given information about getting a new birth certificate for the child. The new birth certificate (adoption certificate) is normally available through the General Register Office within 4 weeks.
Although it is not an actual birth certificate, it has the same status as one, and it replaces the birth certificate for legal purposes. The adoption certificate gives the date of the adoption order and the names and addresses of the adoptive parents. It is similar in all aspects to a birth certificate.
Rights of the birth parents
Before a child can be adopted, the birth mother (or any other legal guardian) must give written consent using an official consent form. They must consent (agree) to:
- Placing the child for adoption by Tusla or an approved adoption service
- The making of an adoption order
The birth mother (or guardian) can only give consent after they have had counselling. This is to make sure that they are giving consent in a free and informed manner. The social worker must be satisfied that the birth mother (or guardian) understands the legal and personal implications of adoption.
The birth mother (or guardian) has a right to know the religion of the prospective adoptive parents before they give consent.
The birth father
If the birth father is not a guardian of the child (for example, if he and the mother are not married), he does not have an automatic right to give, or to withhold, consent for adoption. However, he is entitled to be consulted about the adoption of his child. He can also make an application for guardianship so that he can withhold his consent.
If you (the birth father) are concerned that your partner or former partner plans to place your child for adoption without letting you know, you can ask the Adoption Authority of Ireland to notify you. To do this, you must record your details recorded on the Birth Father Register (pdf). You can do this before your child is born, if necessary. This register is checked against all applications for adoption.
Relevant non-guardians have a right to be consulted about an adoption. A relevant non-guardian is a person who is recognised as the parent of a child, but who is not a legal guardian. A relevant non-guardian may also be a type of guardian who does not have the right to consent to an adoption.
If you are a relevant non-guardian and you are concerned that your child may be placed for adoption without your knowledge, you can register your details with the Adoption Authority of Ireland (pdf). They will check the register against all applications for adoption.
What if the mother cannot (or will not) consent?
If a mother or guardian cannot (or will not) consent to a proposed adoption, the adoption can only proceed by an order of the High Court.
In this case, Tusla or the adopters must apply to the Court. They must prove that the child’s parents have failed in their duty to the child, and that this failure can be considered legally as an abandonment of their parental rights and duties.
For this application to be made, the case must first be heard before the Board of the Adoption Authority of Ireland. Read the rules for these hearings on the Adoption Authority of Ireland's website.
Can the birth mother (or guardian) change their mind?
If the mother or guardian withdraws (takes back) their consent after the child has been placed for adoption, the adopters may apply to the High Court for an order. If the court is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child, it will make an order giving custody of the child to the adopting parents for a specified period. The court can also authorise the Adoption Authority of Ireland to dispense with the mother's (or guardian's) consent to the making of the adoption order.
If a mother changes her mind about adoption before the adoption order is made, but the adopting parents refuse to give up the child, she can begin legal proceedings to have custody of her child returned to her.
Employment rights of adoptiveparents
An adoptive parent is entitled to take adoptive leave from employment. Adoptive leave gives 24 weeks’ leave off work to one parent of the adopting couple (or a parent who is adopting alone). The 24 weeks start from the date the child is placed in your care.
Adoptive parents are also entitled to 5 weeks’ parent’s leave within 2 years of the child being placed with the family.
You may also be entitled to take parental leave, to spend time looking after your children. You can take up to 26 weeks’ parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday.
Laws on adoption and the organisationsinvolved
The Adoption Act 2010 merged, consolidated and updated all existing adoption laws in Ireland. This Act was revised further by the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017. Read about these key pieces of legislation in the table below:
|The law:||Some key points:|
|Adoption Act 2010||This law: Established the Adoption Authority of Ireland – read about ‘Organisations involved in adoption’ below States that a child must be at least 6 weeks old before they can be placed for adoption Sets out the eligibility criteria for adoptive parents, and states the need for applicants to get a ‘Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability’ (which is like a ‘license to adopt’).|
|Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017||This law updated some rules in relation to adoption, for example: All children are now considered equal in terms of their eligibility for adoption. Children born to married parents can be placed for adoption, and children who were previously adopted can be adopted again. Read more about eligibility for adoption on the Tusla website. The best interests of the child are the most important consideration in any adoption application. When placing a child for adoption, the High Court can ‘dispense’ (ignore) the need for the parental consent if the parents have failed in their duty towards the child for 36 months or more, and where adoption is considered to be in the child’s best interest|
Organisations involved in domestic adoption
|Name of the organisation:||What they do:|
|Tusla - the Child and Family Agency||All initial applications for adoption are made to your local Tusla adoption office.
Social workers at Tusla then carry out a detailed assessment of prospective adoptive parents (including interviews and home visits). Tusla’s social workers then submit their assessment reports to the Adoption Authority of Ireland for review and approval.
|Adoption Authority of Ireland||The Adoption Authority of Ireland is an independent body, responsible for: Regulating and improving standards of adoption in Ireland, putting the child’s best interests first Helping people with post-adoption information and tracing Providing mediation and counselling to people who have been involved in some third party and family adoptions|
Further information on domesticadoption
If you have a query about adoption in Ireland, contact your local Tusla adoption service.
Can I get a copy of an Adoption Certificate?
You can get a certified (official) copy of an entry in the Adopted Children Register from the General Register Office. You can download an application form (pdf) and email it to GROonlinepayments@welfare.ie.
The certificate can be used for legal and administrative purposes, and costs €20.