Unmarried gay and heterosexual couples can now adopt a child
Gay and heterosexual couples who have been living together for at least three years or gay couples who are in a civil partnership will be able to apply to adopt a child from tomorrow.
Up to now a couple had to be married to adopt a child together.
The commencement order for the provisions of the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 was signed by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.
It will mean that unmarried couples who meet the assessment criteria will no longer have to adopt a child as a single person.
The legislation will also introduce other major changes for step-families where the non-biological parent wants to adopt a child.
Up to now a mother in this situation who re-married had to apply to adopt her own child.
It will also be easier for children in long-term foster care to be adopted by their foster family.
Adoption Authority chief executive Patricia Carey said it will mean children can now be considered equally in terms of their eligibility for adoption.
The fact 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," she said.
"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 seven years of age when being adopted has been removed. Now the only legal distinction about a child's age is that he or she still must be under 18 years of age.
Welcoming the triggering of the legislation, Geoffrey Shannon, chairman of the Adoption Authority (left), said it will ensure the voice of the child is heard in all adoption matters.
The vast majority of children adopted in Ireland come from abroad including China, Vietnam, India and the United States. An agreement has now been reached with Haiti.
The new law opens up the opportunity for more children in Ireland to be adopted and gives more young people in care a chance to be part of a family.