Childless Irish couples are flocking to the sunshine state of Florida to adopt babies, according to new figures.

Statistics released by Ireland’s Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald reveal the increase in Florida adoptions.

The figures from Fitzgerald’s department reveal that 17 babies were adopted by Irish couples there in 2011.

The new study also highlights that more children were adopted from the US by Irish residents in 2011 than during the nine years from 2000 to 2008.

A report in the Evening Herald newspaper outlines the increase in the number of Irish parents adopting in Florida.

A spokeswoman for the International Adoption Association (IAA) told the paper that the proven track record of "transparent and ethical" processes in Florida has made the state a popular choice for Irish couples.

The spokeswoman said: “There are many reasons for this but primarily because other families have effected legal and transparent adoptions from this state and the children are very young when placed for adoption.

“It is easier to travel back and forth to Florida from Ireland than the west coast of the US.

“There is also an agency in the state which works with Irish parents and in which the applicants have confidence.”

The IAA’s Irish branch, based in Dublin, supports couples seeking to adopt from another country, according to the paper.

The report also states that the overall reduction in the number of foreign adoptions has led to calls on Minister Fitzgerald to remove the red tape blocking the way for thousands of couples.

Fianna Fail’s children’s spokesman Charlie McConalogue said: “The Hague Convention on inter-country adoption has totally changed the regime.

“There has been a very significant drop in the number of adoptions since its ratification.”

Under the new agreement, Irish residents can only adopt from countries which have also signed up to the convention or with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement but no bilateral arrangements have yet been put in place.

The Herald reports that there were 39 babies adopted from Hague-ratified countries last year, while in 2008, the total number was 397.

The 2011 figure does not include the number of adoptions from non-Hague ratified countries.