Adoption Authority of Ireland v Proposed Adoption of KSH (A Minor)

CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice Henry Abbott
Judgment Date04 December 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] IEHC 772
Docket Number[2013 No. 37 MCA]
Date04 December 2015

[2015] IEHC 772


Abbott J.

[2013 No. 37 MCA]



Adoption – S. 17 (2) of the Adoption Act 2010 – European Convention on Human Rights – Adoption of minor child – Refusal of mother to divulge the identity of father – Welfare of child – Social need

Facts: The applicant sought an order for approval for placing the child/respondent for adoption without notifying the father of the respondent following the refusal of the birth mother to reveal the identity of the father. The birth mother contended that since she and the birth father of the child had already separated and given the fact that she had concealed the birth of the child even with her friends and family, it would not serve any purpose to notify the birth father, who suffered from depression. The applicant contended that since the child was seven months old and presently in the care of a pre-adoptive foster home, any delay in the matter would be to the detriment of the welfare of the child as the child would then have to be put under the care of a Health Service Executive in permanent foster care.

Mr. Justice Henry Abbott granted an order thereby approving the placement of the child for adoption. The Court held that the Adoption Act 2010 specifically authorized the High Court to make an order approving the placement of a child for adoption where the father had not been notified following the refusal of the mother to disclose the identity of the father. The Court opined that before granting an order to that effect, the best interests of the child should be taken into account. The Court observed that notwithstanding the right to family life under art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court had discretion to set aside the requirement of notification to the unmarried father if there were strong reasons for making that departure. The Court in consonance with the decision of Holman J. in Z. County Council v R. [2001] 1 FLR 365 at 367, respecting the decision of the birth mother making discreet, dignified and humane arrangements for the birth and then adoption of the child, held that forcing a mother to reveal a secret which she did not wish to via cross – examination would be of no use and the Court had no option but to agree to her wishes.

Mr. Justice Henry Abbott

These proceedings involve an application by the Adoption Authority of Ireland [hereinafter: the ‘Authority’] under ss. 18(5) and 18(6) of the Adoption Act 2010, to the High Court for an order approving the placing of baby K.S.H. for adoption, without notifying the natural father, in circumstances where the mother refuses to reveal his identity.


Baby K.S.H. was born on the 14th July, 2012, and is now 7 months old. She is currently in a pre-adoptive foster home with persons who are not the prospective adopters. The natural mother has been repeatedly counselled by social workers from the accredited body, named in the affidavits [hereinafter: the accredited body] with regard to the repercussions of not notifying the birth father. The natural mother, who is aged 22, has been counselled regarding the need for him to be consulted, both for the well-being of the child and for the father's own rights to be exercised, as is required by s.18(5).


The natural father has not been notified, because the identity of the father is unknown to the accredited body and the mother continues to refuse to reveal his identity. Further, the accredited body has taken all steps reasonably practicable to obtain the cooperation of the mother and has been unsuccessful in doing so. The accredited body also has no other practical way of ascertaining the father's identity.


Following a hearing in the High Court on, 15th February, 2013, on this application, this Court expressed very serious reservations regarding the failure to notify the natural father. This Court has found the application to be a serious matter, and that making an order, without notifying the natural father would appear to be against the interests of the child and of the father. This Court also stated that it was uncomfortable with the fact that the child was a secret. The Court outlined that the problem with secrets was that they are frequently found out and that the father would probably find out eventually. If this happened, the father could then take steps to challenge any adoption order that had been made. This Court asked that these comments be communicated to the mother of the child.


Social worker number 1, [hereinafter: ‘social worker no. 1’], from the accredited body, spoke with the natural mother and conveyed the views of the High Court. She informed the Court on the 22nd February, 2013, that despite hearing the views of the High Court, the natural mother remained adamant that she would not reveal the identity of the father. She indicated that the birth mother has not revealed the pregnancy to anyone but her sister (with whom she was very close), and that she is adamant that the matter remain a secret.


On the 22nd February, 2013, the Court was told that the birth mother had told social worker no. 1 that she had left home in the latter stages of pregnancy and moved into an apartment with her sister, so that she could conceal the pregnancy. The birth mother states that the birth father is on medication for depression and that he has had a number of stresses, including recently failing his exams and his sister being diagnosed with a very serious and possibly life threatening illness. She states that his parents find it difficult to support him, that his mother suffers from stress and depression and his father works abroad. She told social worker no 1. that she explained away her increased weight during the pregnancy by indicating that she had a metabolic condition. The details concerning the relationship with the birth father and surrounding the birth of the child are more fully set out in the report of social worker no. 1 and in the affidavit of the natural mother, which were each exhibited to the grounding affidavit.


On the 22nd February, 2013 the Court again reiterated its view that the natural father had a right to know about the child so that he could exercise his rights, if he wished to do so, including applying to become a guardian of the child, or opposing the adoption. The Court also stressed the importance of the child having a right to know who the father is. The Court directed that the natural mother would come to court so that the matter could be discussed with her, and a hearing date was set for 27th February, 2013. It was also directed that submissions be filed for the assistance of the Court setting out the law with regard to the rights and interests of all parties in this complex situation.


The legislative framework is set out in the Adoption Act 2010. Section 17(2) requires that before an accredited body places a child for adoption, it must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to consult the father regarding the placement.


Section 17 (2) states:-

‘Subject to this section and s. 18, where an accredited body proposes to place a child for adoption, the accredited body, before placing the child for adoption, shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to consult the father for the purpose of:-

(a) informing him of the proposed placement,

(b) explaining to him the legal implications of, and the procedures related to, adoption and

(c) ascertaining whether or not he objects to the proposed placement.’


Sections 18(5) and (6) provide that where the birth mother refuses to identify the father,the accredited body will counsel the mother on the implications of such an action and if the mother continues to refuse to identify him, the adoption can only proceed with the approval of the High Court. Section 18 (5) and (6) state as follows:-

‘(5) if the identity of the father of the child is unknown to an accredited body and the mother refuses to reveal the father's identity, the accredited body:-

(a) shall counsel the mother in order to attempt to obtain her cooperation, indicating to her;

(i) that the adoption may be delayed,

(ii) the possibility of the father contesting the adoption at a later date,

(iii) that the absence of information about the medical, genetic and social background of the father may be detrimental to the health, development or welfare of the child, and

(iv) such other matters as the accredited body considers are appropriate in the circumstances, and

(b) if the mother, after counselling, continues to refuse to reveal the identity of the father, shall furnish the Authority with a written report of the counselling that the accredited body has provided.

(6) Where the Authority receives a written report referred to in subsection (5)(b) and is satisfied that the accredited body

(a) has taken such steps as are reasonably practicable to obtain the cooperation of the mother, and

(b) has no other practical way of ascertaining the father's identity,


(i) the Authority, after first obtaining the approval of the High Court, may authorise the accredited body to place the child for adoption, and

(ii) at any time after being so authorised, if the accredited body has not ascertained the father's identity, the accredited body may place the child for adoption.’


Apart from these sections, the Adoption Act 2010 does not provide any further machinery or provisions to assist in determining the identity of a birth father. Finally, it should be noted that s.19 of the Adoption Act 2010 requires that in all proceedings involving the adoption of a child, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. Section 19 states as follows:-

‘In any matter, application or proceedings...

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1 cases
  • The Adoption Authority of Ireland v M (A Minor)
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 13 October 2020
    ...(i) Case-Law 9 The court has been referred by the Authority to Adoption Authority of Ireland v. Proposed Adoption of K.S.H. (a minor) [2015] IEHC 772. There, as here, a natural mother declined to reveal the identity of the natural father and the Adoption Authority made application under s.1......

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