Exclusive: Barnado's calls for more gay couples to adopt children

By Jessica Green

October 19, 2009 / pinknews.co.uk

Children's charity Barnardo's is looking for more gay couples and individuals to adopt children.

In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk, head of adoption at the charity, Carolyn Oliver, said she wanted to ensure gays and lesbians were aware of their adoption rights.

She said: "There is a need for more parents, particularly for older children who are in the looked-after [care] system.

"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."

There has been a large increase in the UK in the acceptance and incidence of gay and lesbian adopters since the passage of the Adoption and Children Act in 2002, when unmarried and same-sex couples were allowed to apply for adoption for the first time.

The Act, which came into effect on December 20th 2005, stated that any unmarried couple wishing to adopt would be permitted to if they were able to demonstrate that their partnership is an 'enduring family relationship'.

Oliver said that in some cases, same-sex couples could be more suitable for children who have faced particular difficulties.

She said: "Maybe one of the strengths of gay and lesbian parents is that they often have experience of issues like discrimination and so can understand these kind of problems.

"Another advantage is that sometimes it's preferable to place children in a single-sex household."

Oliver outlined the process of adopting a child, which is the same for anyone who applies.

Would-be parents first approach an adoption agency with an initial enquiry. This is followed by an individual initial visit, in which adoption procedures are explained and an information meeting.

If people are still interested, they then make an official application. Personal and statutory references are required, along with a medical examination.

The prospective adoptive parents then join a preparation group, where they learn about the legal system surrounding adoption and what it is like to look after a child who has been in care or grown up with an unstable family life.

For gay and lesbian individuals and couples, there is New Family Social, a UK-wide group which offers advice and regular get-togethers for those who have already adopted and those considering signing up.

Although the possibility of children being bullied for having gay parents is a common issue raised by opponents of gay adoption, Oliver says there is no evidence to suggest they are at greater risk.

She said: "Adopted children can get bullied wherever they are placed. It's certainly something we discuss with all parents and includes things like where they live, what the area is like."

Oliver concluded: "We're just reaching out to people who can offer a family. It's taken a while for gays and lesbians to realise that agencies will talk to them because gay adoption is still relatively new. But there are plenty of opportunities for people to come forward and find out everything they want to know."


I beg your pardon, Barnardos?

head of adoption at the charity, Carolyn Oliver, said she wanted to ensure gays and lesbians were aware of their adoption rights.

"Adoption rights"?

Reads to me Barnardos has found away to reach unmet adoption goals in the UK.

Of course, this old trend, addressing more audiences looking to adopt, should come as no surprise, given the cash prize one council received, in 2008.

Hammersmith and Fulham council, in west London, was paid £500,000 as a reward for placing more than 100 children for adoption in three years. The council is the first to acknowledge publicly a payout under the target scheme. It said that its social workers had "pulled out all the stops" and "cut down on the amount of bureaucracy" to boost the numbers.

They exceeded their goal of 101 adoptions, securing 106 by this month's deadline. In almost every case, the birth parents fought to keep their children but were defeated in the family courts.

One can only imagine what will happen to (UK) Family Court, once people start believing each person has the "right" to adopt a child!

Right, privileges and the burden

This is what sickens me most about the discussion of adoption by gay and lesbian couples, the notion that adoption is a right, which it is not. Adoption is still defined as a privilege, which in some countries and in some states of the US has been granted to gay and lesbian couples.

For the GLBT community this means learning to think out of the box. For decades the discussion has been about gay rights, so their advocacy groups are entirely focused on the rights issue. Still adoption is not a right and should not be a right.

The discussion so far about GLBT adoption has been a terrible one. The opposition mainly comes from conservative organizations that try to link homosexuality to child abuse, which is an unattainable position. Most research shows no correlation at all between child abuse and sexual orientation. Even our own abuse cases section, non-random as it is, shows very few cases by gay couples. Still that doesn't mean I consider gay adoption such a positive development. After all it does raise the burden placed on children.

Every child growing up has explaining to do to other children when their home lives are different from what is customary, children are very conservative in that sense. So if a child is adopted there is explaining to do, when there is a racial difference there is even more explaining to do, if on top of that the adoptive parents are two men or two women there is even more explaining to do. Outcome studies may show that children are resilient enough not to be scarred for life, but does that mean we have to put the extra burden on them?

An extra burden

No adult of any persuasion has the right to adopt. The word should be banned from discussions about prospective adoptive families, as it takes the emphasis off adoption being child-centred.

There will likely be times that being the child (adopted or bio) of gay/lesbian parents will be a burden. There may also be times when being a child in a gay or lesbian family may be protective. I remember when agencies were struggling to place HIV/AIDS babies in adoptive and foster families, and it was the GLBT community that responded.  Within these families and communities, HIV+ children were welcomed and loved at a time when the wider, straight society was shunning HIV+ people.

IMO there are great gay and lesbian families and there are awful ones. I would not want to see adoptions banned on the basis of the prospective aparent's sexual orientation alone. It is an aspect of their lives that has to be taken into consideration, along with many other factors, but I don't believe it should be the determining factor.

Gay and lesbian parents have already learned about facing prejudice, stereotypes and exclusion. They may be better than most at raising a child to be their own person, rather than expecting them to fulfill their parent's expectations. I would be more concerned about children being adopted by very religious, inflexible WASP parents who may well be less able and willing to nurture the "otherness" of an adopted child.

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