August 2004: The Department of Health issued a questionnaire to all key stakeholders involved in adoption on changes required to existing legislation.
February and June 2005: The department held a series of four one-day workshops on specific themes based on the changes changes introduced through the Adoption & Children Act 2002 in England and Wales.
July 2006: Health Minister Paul Goggins issued the proposed new adoption strategy for Northern Ireland – ‘Adopting the Future’ – for consultation.
2008: House of Lords judgement ruled that unmarried couples could apply to adopt in Northern Ireland.
June 2009: A draft Executive paper was issued by the Department of Health outlining proposals for the development of an Adoption and Children Bill.
April 19th, 2010: During oral answers in Assembly, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he recently received the “final outstanding report” from OFMDFM on the draft paper. He said that the First Minister was content to proceed with drafting the bill, while the Deputy First Minister had asked for a further version of the paper clearly listing the policy proposals. Mr McGimpsey said that he was sitting with a 100-clause bill but believed he did not have any time left in the Assembly mandate to allow him to bring forward the legislation. He also confirmed he had “deliberately excluded” the eligibility criteria from the bill.
May 2010: Draft proposals for inclusion in a new Adoption and Children’s Bill were agreed by the Executive.
October 27th, 2010: The proposed Adoption and Children Bill was withdrawn from the Assembly’s legislative programme.
April 2011: The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission lodged an application for a judicial review of our adoption law.
May 23rd, 2011: Leave for the judicial review was granted at Belfast’s High Court. It is listed for mention in September.
June 24th, 2011: DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots responded to a written Assembly question which asked for an update on the proposed adoption legislation. Minister Poots said: “In light of the time which has elapsed since my department consulted on a range of options for adoption reform in Northern Ireland, I have asked my officials to revisit the original proposals and the public response to those proposals to ensure that they remain valid and fit for purpose.” He did not mention the judicial review.