Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
CitationSI 1987/2203

1987 No. 2203 (N.I. 22)


The Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987

Made 18th December 1987

Coming into operation on days to be appointed under Article 1(2)

At the Court at Buckingham Palace, the 18th day of December 1987


The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council

Whereas a draft of this Order has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament:

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, in exercise of the powers conferred by paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 19741, and of all other powers enabling Her in that behalf, is pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, as follows:—




Title and commencement
S-1 Title and commencement

Title and commencement

1.—(1) This Order may be cited as the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.

(2) This Order shall come into operation on such day or days as the Head of the Department of Health and Social Services may by order appoint.

S-2 Interpretation


2.—(1) The Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 19542shall apply to Article 1 and the following provisions of this Order as it applies to a Measure of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

(2) In this Order—

“actual custody”, in relation to a child, means actual possession of his person;

“adoption agency” shall be construed in accordance with Article 3(3); and for the purposes of Articles 11 and 21 includes an adoption agency within the meaning of section 1 of the Adoption Act 19763(adoption agencies in England and Wales) and section 1 of the Adoption (Scotland) Act 19784(adoption agencies in Scotland);

“adoptin order” means an order under Article 12(1);

“adoption society” means a body of persons whose functions consist of or include the making of arrangements for the adoption of children;

“adoption rules” means rules of court and county court rules;

“authorised court”, as respects an application for an order relating to a child, means—

(a) in the case of an application for an adoption order or for an order freeing a child for adoption where the child is not in Northern Ireland when the application is made, the High Court;

(b) in the case of an application under Article 30—

(i) where there is pending in respect of the child an application for an adoption order or an order freeing him for adoption, the court in which that application is pending;

(ii) in any other case, the High Court or the county court within whose division the applicant lives;

(c) in any other case where the child is in Northern Ireland when the application is made—

(i) the High Court;

(ii) the county court within whose division the child is, and, in the case of an application for an order freeing a child for adoption, any county court within whose division a parent or guardian of the child is;

(iii) any other county court prescribed by county court rules;

“Board” means a Health and Social Services Board established under Article 16 of the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 19725;

“child”, except where used to express a relationship, means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years;

“the Department” means the Department of Health and Social Services;

“existing”, in relation to a statutory provision or other instrument, means one passed or made at any time before the commencement of Part V;

“guardian”, in relation to a child, means—

(a) a person appointed by deed or will in accordance with the provisions of section 6 of the Tenures Abolition Act (Ireland) 16626or section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 18867to be the guardian of the child;

(b) a person appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction to be the guardian of the child;

and in the case of an illegitimate child includes the father where he has custody of the child by virtue of an order under section 5A of that Act of 1886

“notice” means a notice in writing;

“order freeing a child for adoption” means an order under Article 17(1) or 18(1);

“the parental rights and duties” means, as respects a particular child (whether legitimate or not), all the rights and duties which by law the mother and father have in relation to a legitimate child and his property; and references to a parental right or duty shall be construed accordingly and shall include any element included in a right or duty;

“place of safety” means a remand home, a home provided by a Board, a police station, a hospital or surgery, or any other suitable place the occupier of which is willing temporarily to receive a child;

“prescribed” in Articles 4, 54 and 59 means prescribed by regulations and elsewhere means prescribed by adoption rules;

“registered adoption society” means an adoption society which is registered under Article 4, and does not include an adoption society registered under Part V of the Adoption Act (Northern Ireland) 19678unless it is re-registered under Article 4; and “registration” in relation to an adoption society shall be construed accordingly;

“registration district” means the local government district or, where a birth took place before the 1st October 1973, the district of the Superintendent Registrar and Registrar of Births and Deaths within the meaning of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Northern Ireland) 19679;

“regulations” means regulations made by the Department;

“relative” in relation to a child means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, whether of the full blood or half-blood or by affinity and includes, where the child is illegitimate, the father of the child and any person who would be a relative within the meaning of this definition if the child were the legitimate child of his mother and father;

“statutory provision” has the meaning given by section 1(f) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 195410;

“voluntary organisation” means a body other than a public or local authority the activities of which are not carried on for profit.

(3) For the purposes of this Order, a person shall be deemed to make arrangements for the adoption of a child or to take part in arrangements for transferring the actual custody of a child to a person if—


(a) he enters into or makes any agreement or arrangement for, or for facilitating, the adoption of the child by any other person, whether the adoption is effected, or is intended to be effected, in pursuance of an adoption order, an order under Article 57 or otherwise; or


(b) he enters into or makes any agreement or arrangement for, or facilitates, the transfer of the child to the actual custody of that other person;

or if he initiates or takes part in any negotiations of which the purpose or effect is the conclusion of any agreement or the making of any arrangement therefor, or if he causes another person to do so.

(4) References in this Order to a child in the care of a Board include references to a child in the care of the Department, where a Board is exercising functions with respect to the care of the child on behalf of the Department pursuant to Article 17 of the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 197211.




The Adoption Service

The Adoption Service

S-3 The Adoption Service

The Adoption Service

3.—(1) Every Board shall establish and maintain within its area a service designed to meet the needs, in relation to adoption, of—


(a) children who have been or may be adopted;


(b) parents and guardians of such children; and


(c) persons who have adopted or may adopt a child,

and for that purpose shall provide the requisite facilities, or secure that they are provided by registered adoption societies.

(2) The facilities to be provided as part of the service maintained under paragraph (1) include—


(a) temporary board and lodging where needed by pregnant women, mothers or children;


(b) arrangements for assessing children and prospective adopters, and placing children for adoption;


(c) counselling for persons with problems relating to adoption.

(3) The service maintained by Boards under paragraph (1) may be collectively referred to as “the Adoption Service”, and a Board or a registered adoption society may be referred to as an adoption agency.

Adoption societies

Adoption societies

S-4 Registration of adoption societies

Registration of adoption societies

4.—(1) A body which is a voluntary organisation and desires to act, or to continue to act, as an adoption society may apply to the Department in the prescribed manner for registration under this Article paying such fee, if any, as may be prescribed.

(2) In considering the application, the Department shall have regard, in relation to the period for which registration is sought, to—


(a) the applicant’s adoption programme, including, in particular, its ability to make provision (either directly or by arrangement with any other body, including a Board) for children who are free for adoption (including such children who are not placed for adoption);


(b) the number and qualifications of its staff;


(c) the availability to it of competent medical, legal and social work advice;


(d) its financial resources; and


(e) the organisation and control of its operations.

(3) After taking into account, in relation to the applicant, the matters specified in paragraph (2) and any other relevant considerations, the Department—


(a) if satisfied that the applicant is likely to make, or if the applicant is an adoption society registered under Part V of the Adoption Act (Northern Ireland) 196712, is making an effective contribution to the Adoption Service, may register the applicant; or


(b) may refuse to register it.

(4) Registration of an adoption society on an application under paragraph (1), unless cancelled earlier under Article 5, shall last for a period of 3 years from the date of registration and shall then expire or, in the case of a registered adoption society...

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