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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."