The Irish Times published a two-part article on Step Parent adoption last Saturday. We are in the middle of our home visits as part of our own application. While it is positive to see the issue getting coverage in a national paper, it’s close to the bone. The home visits are intensive and scour every last detail of our personal life, past and present. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted at this stage, and we’re not even halfway through.
My curiosity eventually won over the anxiety of being unhappy with the content and I read the piece. It’s both vindicating and frustrating to see how ridiculous the situation is to the rational, impartial mind. We know how unfair it is but we must continue to play the game regardless. The first article highlighted the injustice of having to adopt your own child. There is mention of changes being made like allowing a non-biological parent to become a guardian without having to adopt. But these changes will have arrived too late for our family.
“Ireland is unique in Europe: that a woman would technically have to give up her legal rights to her child in order to have joint legal rights with her husband” I didn’t realize how alone our country was in its outdated, unreasonable laws.
“Of 116 domestic adoptions last year, 86 were step-family adoptions, meaning 86 natural mothers became adoptive mothers to their own children”
Later in the article, the spokesperson for Child and Youth services describes the situation as an anomaly. 86 women in one year is not a legal peculiarity, it’s a systematic failure.
The second article, an interview with a mother who is refusing to adopt her own child, lacked some very necessary information in my opinion. This topic is rarely covered in the public eye and there is little information on Irish stepparent adoption available online. If a couple are considering the possibility of stepparent adoption, they need to have a full picture of the situation as it stands.
Milana Kearns, the mother being interviewed, states from the outset that it is unacceptable for her to adopt her own daughter. She worries that because she would have no birth certificate if she were adopted, her daughter will ask questions about her “real mother” and she would have no proof that she was her birth mother.
She does not want to be subjected to Garda clearance and home visits. Her daughter refers to her husband as “Dad” and she believes that he should be able to adopt her independently. She said that even if she went ahead with the paperwork, once she arrived to the point where she had to adopt her own child she couldn’t go through with it.
“It is very sad that the law is so unfair to mothers”.
End of article.
I share her outrage at the situation. I admire her lobbying to the Minister for Justice. I respect her decision to not go ahead with the adoption. Her reasons are perfectly valid and resonate deeply with me, too. What needed to follow this personal account was a honest description of where Milana stands now because of her refusal to adopt, however.
Her husband has no rights to her daughter. Under Irish law, the biological father is still able to apply for access, guardianship or even custody. If he is successful in achieving guardianship, he has to approve any step parent adoption application in future. If Milana dies, her daughter has no legal guardian and a pathway for her natural father has been left wide open. Her husband will have no say because there is no legal relationship between him and her daughter without stepparent adoption.
There is a serious risk being taken here. There is a reason why 86 mothers swallowed the injustice of Irish law and adopted their own child last year. It wasn’t because they were any less outraged that they would be forever known as an adoptive mother. It was that they had no other choice in securing their child’s place within the family.
I am just as angry, but I must continue with this adoption. We could wait for a change in legislation, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Ireland is slow to change.