The Changing Place of Adoption in the Irish Care System
Long term foster care (LTFC) is the predominant permanent option for children who are likely to remain in care in Ireland. The limited use of adoption from the care system has been a feature of the Irish system and linked to the ‘lack of voice for children’ and ‘the protection of the family based on marriage’. These two perspectives were central to the constitutional amendment campaign in 2012 which sought to give greater recognition to children’s rights. A central part of the successful amendment made provision for adoption to be more available for children and for it to be positioned more centrally as an option in the care system.
Today, adoption and child welfare practice in Ireland is undergoing major change arising from this legislative change. Against a backdrop of overall adoption trends in Ireland, this paper explores the 2017 Adoption Amendment Act, views of Irish social workers towards the change and examines how the proposals sit within the international context. The paper is based on a series of focus group interviews undertaken with Irish social workers and conference evaluation data obtained between 2017 and 2018. The study aimed to capture views surrounding the changing place of adoption within the care system and to identify key issues underpinning the change.
The paper concludes by offering an analyses of Irish developments against European, USA, Australian and New Zealand trends in respect of how these countries use adoption as an part of public care. As part of this analysis, permanency, post adoption support, concurrent planning and contact is examined. It is postulated that a critical examination of these concepts is required as part of future change in Ireland.