Left to right: Health Minister Robin Swann, Adoption UK’s Director Northern Ireland EJ Havlin, adopter Kathy Brownlee and her adopted son Mack, aged nine.

Adoption UK is delighted that Northern Ireland’s ground-breaking Adoption and Children Bill, which has been 15 years in the making, has today reached a significant milestone by passing its final stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

This historic piece of legislation will modernise and enhance the legal framework for adoption in Northern Ireland, making it more child centred and recognise the ongoing needs of adopted children and their families.

Reform to adoption and post adoption support in Northern Ireland has been a long time coming. The legislation, which has been the subject of a concerted and prolonged Adoption UK campaign, replaces the out-dated 1987 Adoption (NI) Order, which was more than 30-years-old.

The most significant change is the provision of an assessment of need and the duty to provide the support services to children and young people who are adopted. 

There will be action to tackle delays to the adoption process, which prejudices a child’s welfare, and a requirement for the courts to draw up a timetable for resolving cases without delay.

The much-anticipated new legislation will also introduce an independent scrutiny mechanism to drive forward regionally consistent post adoption services. The Bill is expected to become law in the coming months.

Adoption UK’s Director in Northern Ireland EJ Havlin said: “After many years lobbying for provision of services to meet the needs of adopted people and their families, I am absolutely delighted to see the Bill reach this significant milestone.” 

Having survived changing political climates and the collapse of power sharing, the Bill was passed at the NI Assembly with unanimous cross-party support. It will now go on to receive Royal Assent.

Health Minister Robin Swann, who tabled the Bill, said: “It brings us not only into line with other parts of the United Kingdom, but it actually takes us further advanced of some of those jurisdictions as well in how much support we will give to those children in care or on the edge of care or the families that are supporting them as well.”

Ms Havlin paid tribute to the adoption community in Northern Ireland for their “persistence, hard work and engagement, which went a long way towards achieving this long overdue legislation.”

In their report on the Bill, the Committee for Health also thanked “all of those parents and young people who took part in the sessions for sharing their expertise and experience”.