Watchdog calls for age limit for adoptive parents
People who want to adopt should be no more than 42 years older than their child, a State agency has warned.
The controversial call for an age limit by the Adoption Authority comes as the number of babies available for adoption has dramatically fallen.
They are now seeing an increasing number of adoptions involving children who are older or have special needs.
In a report the agency said 116 adoption orders were granted domestically last year, a significant rise on the 49 made in 2012. The majority were made in step-family adoptions and in only one case was a birth father adopting with his wife.
There were 141 foreign adoptions registered and 650 people have passed all stages of assessment, leaving them free to adopt. However, a significant number of these are unlikely to go ahead with an adoption.
This was because not all prospective adoptive parents wanted to adopt older children with needs, said the report.
"In view of the changing profile of children for adoption worldwide, the need for prospective adoptive parents to be in good health and of an age to parent children with needs through to adulthood is important."
Guidelines for the assessment of prospective adoptive parents were issued in 2013. They made specific reference to medical issues and outline the need to make applicants aware of health matters as early as possible.
"This avoids delays or disappointment later in the process," said the authority. It pointed out that it remains aware that intercountry adoption is an alternative to institutional care for children and that children's welfare and safety must be protected and safeguarded throughout the process.
"Children are being placed on average from the age of four years and have spent most of their lives in institutional care. The need for prospective parents to be familiar with the child's language is acute.
"The information courses undertaken by prospective adoptive parents with the Health Service Executive and Child and Family Agency throughout 2013 have reflected the changing profile of children and additional needs of older children and sibling groups," it added.
The authority also suggested if people were deemed suitable after assessment to adopt this should only be issued for two years in the best interest of the child.
If they want to renew it, they should go to the High Court with an affidavit and be subject to more assessment with a declaration lasting no longer than five years.
Irish adoption law is also behind practice in other countries by not allowing for open adoption where the child and birth parents have ongoing contact with each other.
Sanctions should also apply to anyone who tries to adopt a child outside the State "knowing it to be unsafe".
Since the 1990s the highest number of foreign and domestic adoptions took place in 2008 when 490 were registered .
In 1991 there were just 58 but they climbed as more prospective parents adopted children from abroad. Prior to that, a record 1,493 adoptions took place in 1968 and the numbers remained high to the mid-1980s.
The authority also wants an end to people's "automatic legal right" to be assessed as adopters,as it results in a waste of resources when they want young children only.
"The right to assessment implies a right of applicants to parent a child. It is the child's right to family life that is emphasised in the Hague Convention."