MORE AND MORE GAY MEN AND WOMEN ARE CHOOSING ADOPTION AS A MEANS OF STARTING A FAMILY. JANE ELSTON OF THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR ADOPTION & FOSTERING LOOKS AT HOW SAME- GENDER ADOPTERS CAN MAKE IDEAL PARENTS
More and more gay men and women are choosing adoption to start a family
Every year across the UK about 6,000 children are adopted from our care system. Taken as a group, these are children who for a variety of reasons are unable to live safely with their birth parents or wider birth families. Sibling groups, older children, disabled children and those from some black minority ethnic communities are among the children who wait longer to be adopted. Sadly, many of these children will have been abused or neglected before being removed from their birth families into care. These children will need a lot of time, attention and nurturing in order to help them recover from the circumstances that led them into care and to help them thrive in a stable and loving family environment.
Through our work at the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) we know that members of the LGBT community make fantastic parents and that children in their care flourish. More gay and lesbian couples are being encouraged to approach adoption agencies and equally, agencies are beginning to realise that this is an untapped resource of Britain’s communities.
Many gay men and lesbians choose adoption as a first rather than a last resort to form a family, and they seem to be more willing to adopt slightly older children or sibling groups. According to the latest figures from the Department for Education, 6% (230) of children were adopted by same sex couples (either in a civil partnership or not) during the year ending 31 March 2013 – up from 4% (16) children in the
previous year which is very encouraging.
For some gay men and lesbians, adoption is a way of creating a family where both parents are equal, with neither being the biological parent. It also means that the children become exclusively part of their nuclear unit, and they do not need to share them with sperm donors or surrogate mothers.
Same-gender couples can sometimes be an ideal match for a child who has been abused by the opposite gender. Children may feel safer, for example, with two women, if they have been abused by a man, or with two men, if their mother has neglected them. Gay men and lesbians will also know what it is like to be in a minority, and may have encountered bullying or discrimination, so will be able to help a child who may encounter discrimination on the grounds of being adopted or living with a same-gender couple.
A research study with 130 families who were randomly chosen, and was completed by the Family Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, in 2013, suggests that adoptive gay and lesbian families provide highly positive parenting outcomes for children.
The families in this study were highly committed to parenting and developing positive relationships with their children, who often had difficulties. Contrary to the concerns that are sometimes raised about gay fathers in particular, these families were found to be functioning as well as, and in some ways slightly better than, the comparison groups of lesbian mothers and heterosexual parents.
The best advice for anyone thinking about adoption is to do your research first. Talk to others who have already adopted. Find out as much as you can about adoption through useful websites such as the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF)’s www.baaf.org.uk or First4 Adoption www.first4adoption.org.uk which contain lots of information about the adoption process, the children needing adoption, case studies of people who have adopted and other useful resources.
New Family Social (www.newfamilysocial.org. uk) a network for LGBT adoptive and foster families is another great organisation which gives support and information. BAAF has also published “The Pink Guide to Adoption” (available through the BAAF bookshop www. baaf.org.uk/bookshop ) which is full of lots of really useful information. As one adoptive dad of two little boys told us: “Gay parenting is no different to parenting. You will experience the same highs, the same lows – yes, adopted children have many more issues but they also bring as much joy.” BAAF is the UK’s leading charity for children separated from their birth families. We provide services to meet the needs of some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people.
“We know that members of the LGBT community make fantastic parents and that children in their care flourish”