FAM­ILY AF­FAIRS

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

Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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”

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