When we think of a family what’s the first thing that pops into our head? Is it a happy husband and wife with two children, working all hours of the day and night trying to make ends meet? Or is it a gay couple trying to fulfil their dreams of raising children?
Whilst gay parenting is becoming increasingly more common, some are left wondering if it’s ever going to be fully accepted. With gay fostering and adoption statistics soaring, it’s clear that a person’s sexual orientation is becoming less and less significant when it comes to raising children.
Recent figures show that there has been a 50 per cent increase in gay adoption during the last six years. National statistics show that 1 in 20 children are being adopted by same sex couples. In Brighton, figures show as many as 1 in 5 children are being placed with gay couples, whilst in Lincolnshire no gay adoptions were processed before 2010.
Whilst gay adoption is now legally permitted, it wasn’t an easy fight. There are some people that view same sex parenting as wrong and immoral, with many religious organisations still against the idea. In 2007 it was reported that the head of the Catholic Church in England threatened to close Catholic adoption agencies, which process a third of adoptions in England and Wales, rather than comply with anti-discrimination laws. The Anglican Union and the Muslim Council of Britain were also criticised for opposing the government's Equality Act, which prevents adoption agencies discriminating against potential gay or lesbian parents. Speaking in 2007, Ming Campbell of the Liberal Democrats, said: “We’ve opposed any suggestion that there should be an opt out, that there should be a different standard, because if you’re against discrimination then you have to be against discrimination in all circumstances”. He went on to explain that he felt their views were “not sustainable”.
The Muslim Council of Britain said it would fully support the principled stand taken by the leaders of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. With such oppression from just a few of our country’s religious organisations, can gay adoption ever be fully accepted as part of our developing culture?
In 2010 following a high court judgment the ‘Catholic Care’ charity lost an appeal which would restrict its adoption services to heterosexual prospective parents only. Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said: “In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation... We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate”
Thankfully the majority of people view gay adoption as a positive leap forward, helping parent-less children find their happy ending. In an interview with www.PinkNews.co.uk Carolyn Oliver, head of adoption at Barnardo’s, explained she wanted to ensure gays and lesbians were aware of their adoption rights. She said: “We’re looking for gay couples and individuals – many still don’t realise that they can adopt and are reluctant to come forward to find out more. At Barnado’s, we are very happy to welcome them as prospective parents.”
By encouraging same sex couples to adopt we are helping the less fortunate children in society. Local authorities are urging more and more people to consider adoption, speaking to www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council in 2010, Janice Spencer, said: “We welcome any applications from couples who are serious and passionate about wanting to adopt, regardless of gender. All are assessed in the same way on their suitability to adopt and all decisions are taken in the best interests of the children to ensure they have a good home.”
According to The British Association for Fostering and Adoption, more than 4000 children are currently waiting to be placed for adoption. Most children are adopted before their fifth birthday and all children are under 10 years old. http://www.newfamilysocial.co.uk/ is a specific support network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adopters and foster carers. Anyone seriously considering adoption should visit http://www.baaf.org.uk/ for more information.
By Glen Allison