Adoption and Children (Northern Ireland) Bill

Closed 28 Apr 2017

Opened 16 Jan 2017


Ministerial Foreword

Our adoption legislation in the north of Ireland is almost 30 years old. The key body of children’s legislation is more than 20 years old. In taking forward this Bill, my aim is to modernise the legislation for the benefit of children, their parents and those families who offer them loving, permanent homes through adoption.

By way of this Bill, our key aim is to enhance the existing legal framework for adoption to make it more consistent with the principles and provisions of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and international human rights requirements. The Children Order is the principal statute governing the care, upbringing and protection of children in the north of Ireland and deals with both public and private law matters which fall within the remit of my Department and the Department of Finance. The provisions in the Bill will extend and strengthen provision in the Children Order to enhance the services provided to children, their parents and carers and improve outcomes for looked after children.

Whilst current adoption legislation has been subject to legal challenges in recent years it is important to recognise that current adoption and children’s legislation still provide the necessary safeguards to protect the vulnerable children and young people in our care.  However the law, as it relates to adoption in particular, requires to be updated to introduce new processes for adopters and new ways of working for adoption agencies and the courts.  In modernising the legal framework, I will ensure that the welfare of every child remains front and centre and the focus of every decision we make and action we take.

This consultation seeks your views on the detail of the Bill. A consultation draft of the Bill is attached.

The Bill is primarily, but not exclusively, proposals drafted and consulted on by the Department in 2006. I am conscious that adoption in particular has been subject to relatively significant legislative reform in other parts of these Islands in recent years. Your views are also sought on reform which has taken place elsewhere with a view to potentially adopting those reforms in the north of Ireland.

Your views, opinions and suggestions are important and I will be glad to be guided by them to reform the law as it relates to adoption and children more generally for the benefit of some of our most vulnerable children.

Michelle O'Neill

Minister of Health

Why we are consulting

The aim of the consultation is to seek views on the detail of the Bill. The paper also highlights legislative reform relating to adoption and children which has taken place in Scotland, England and Wales over the last decade and seeks views on whether these reforms should be implemented in the north of Ireland.


The survey can be completed by a member of the public or it can be completed on behalf of a group or organisation.


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