Judge criticises 9-year delay in making adoption orders

Couples secured guardianship orders in India in 2011, with view to adopting the children in Ireland

A High Court judge has criticised a nine-year delay by the Adoption Authority of Ireland in making adoption orders for four Indian children living here since 2011 with couples anxious to adopt them.

Mr Justice John Jordan said the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption required the relevant authorities "shall act expeditiously in the process of adoption".

In these cases, causing or allowing a delay between 2011 and 2020 “is not acting expeditiously – if that is not an understatement”, he said. Time and expedition “should be measured in weeks and months – and not in years”.

He made the comments in a judgment granting applications by the Child and Family Agency and three couples for orders authorising the authority to make adoption orders concerning the four children, aged 11-15, including two siblings.


The children were described as “orphans” in documents from the relevant Indian authority but other documents from the same authority said they had been “abandoned”.

The siblings were said to have been abandoned at a railway track, one child was said to have been abandoned by her unmarried mother and the fourth child was said to have been abandoned by her father after her mother died.

All three couples separately secured guardianship orders in India in 2011 for the children with a view to adopting them in Ireland.

Having been apprised of that situation by the couples and their solicitors, it was difficult to understand why the authority in June 2011 again asked for information on the applicants’ intentions and deferred issuing child placement approval certificates, the judge said.

A complex legal situation had arisen in relation to the children as a result of a combination of factors, including the Adoption Act 2010 which gave effect in law here to the Hague Convention and changes in Indian law concerning adoption of children of Hindus, he said.

The transition from the old regime to the new, at home and internationally, caused confusion and problems, and many prospective adoptive parents and children, including in this case, became “innocent victims” of the uncertainties.

It appeared changes in Indian law would permit the prospective parents to adopt children from a Hindu background despite the prospective parents themselves not being Hindus.

The prospective adoptive parents were concerned, if they waited to proceed under the new law, there would be considerable delay which they correctly decided was not in the best interests of the children who would have to stay in an orphanage while court processes continued in India, he said. Other issues arose because it appeared, under Indian law, an adoption order cannot be sought retrospectively once guardianship has been granted.

Dedicated parents

Having considered the facts and the law, the judge was satisfied each of the applicants were suitable to be adoptive parents and were dedicated and loving parents to each of the children.

He held there was no intentional circumvention of the convention or the 2010 Act and these applications were before the court because of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the transitional provisions.

He found the spirit of the convention was “broadly adhered to” and would probably have been complied with in full were it not for understandable problems associated with the transition.

He was satisfied each of the children had an excellent relationship with their prospective adoptive parents and were thriving in loving families – “the only families that each of them knows”.

Each child was of sufficient maturity to understand what adoption meant, each wanted to be adopted by their prospective adoptive parents and it was in their best interests the adoptions proceed.

Nothing was really known of the biological parents of the four children, or their whereabouts, if still living, he said.

Given the court’s various findings, he was satisfied to make the orders.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times