‘I feel safe, loved, wanted’: High Court approves adoption of two teens who have stability with ‘de facto’ family

The judge concluded adoption was in the brothers’ best interests

The High Court has approved the adoption of two teenagers by their foster carers despite their mother making “considerable strides” in rescuing herself from previous adverse circumstances.

Ms Justice Nuala Jackson said it is clear the brothers have achieved a “clear sense of stability” with their foster parents with whom they have lived for more than a decade.

They wanted to be adopted into their “de facto family” and not to have contact with their mother, said the judge. She believed their views were grounded upon a desire for stability and legal recognition. Adoption was in their best interests, she found.

The application was supported by the Child and Family Agency (also known as Tusla) but opposed by their birth mother. She did not dispute that her children were taken into care at a time when she was “dependent upon alcohol” and “unable” to care for them on particular occasions.


The mother, who has had contact with her children just once since 2015, argued adoption orders would be disproportionate and pointed to other legal remedies. The judge said she has faced very considerable challenges relating to alcohol abuse and threats of self-harm.

The father of one of the boys initially said he would oppose his son’s adoption but later consented to the order, indicating he would be guided by the judge’s conversations with the boy, she said. He was not aware he had a son before the boy went into care but, upon discovering his paternity, has embraced a relationship with him, was appointed a guardian and has regular access.

He has experienced considerable trauma, addiction, homelessness and bereavement, the judge said.

There is “no doubt” both of the birth parents have made “admirable and considerable strides” in re-establishing their lives and reducing themselves, Ms Justice Jackson said. However, the reality is that the boys’ lives have moved on and they wanted to be integrated into “what has now been their family unit for many years”, she said.

The birth parents alleged breaches of duty on the part of Tusla relating to support and fostering the children’s origin and identity, but they acknowledged the children had resisted some access. They feared the views of the children were being influenced by third parties.

Tusla submitted that the adoptive parents encourage the boys’ awareness of their origins and identities.

Ms Justice Jackson concluded that the children had formed their own views. She was struck by a comment from the older teen, who said he wanted to be “officially” part of his de facto family in which he feels “like a normal kid”.

“I get to experience life the way every child should. In this family, I feel safe, loved, thought of, cared, wanted, protected,” he said.

The judge said that for various reasons, the birth parents have been “unable to discharge parental rights” for a very significant portion of the boys’ lives. She determined they are unable to care for the children in a way that would not prejudicially affect their safety and welfare.

She asked the adoptive parents to undertake to support the wishes of the children regarding contact with their birth parents and learning about their families of origin.

The statutory requirements were met for her to be satisfied she should make orders for the adoption of both of the boys.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter