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The progression of same-sex couples and adoption
The Adoption and Children’s Act 2002 has widened the categories of adoption criteria, this now includes same-sex couples (regardless as to whether they are in a civil partnership or not).
A decade on, following The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 the landscapes have continued to change. Marriage amongst same-sex couples is now lawful and general attitudes towards same-sex couples have started a process of normalization and acceptance. Unfortunately, this is not fully accepted within fostering and adoption practice.
The number of children placed for adoption amongst same-sex couples has grown over the last 7 years, however numbers as a percentage of overall adoption figures remain low. In 2017 of children adopted only 6% were adopted by same-sex married couples or those in civil partnerships.
An untapped resource?
With statistics still showing a relatively low proportion of same-sex couples entering the world of adoption, is this an under-used resource? Questions have been raised as to whether adopted children will be advantaged or disadvantaged by being brought up by two parents of the same sex. Studies have been made into the psychological wellbeing of a child, however there is no conclusive evidence of the advantages or disadvantages by being brought up by two parents of the same sex. Particularly, as every adoptive family is unique.
The motivation to parent remains the same whether the hopeful parents are in a same sex or heterosexual relationship. Similarities include; personal fulfilment in parenthood, enjoyment of children and completion in relation to their own family units. It has also been found that many gay and lesbian couples shared a preference of adoption over alternative routes into parenthood as this would give both parties an equal non-biological connection with the child as well as a legal one.
Experiences within the adoption system
A study conducted by the New Family Social (NFS) in 2014 specialising in facilitating a UK network for LGBT adoptive and prospective adoptive parents found that for the majority of the 350 families studied, parents had not experienced discrimination in the adoptive system. However, it was felt amongst gay men wanting to adopt that they would be more likely than others to be matched with harder to place children, whilst lesbians who had already adopted reported that that they had indeed been matched with harder-to-place children.
What about now?
In today’s world, the paramount legal consideration of an adopting agency and the Court is the child’s welfare throughout their life.
The sexual identity of the adopters in question is just one of the many aspects the Court will take into consideration in addition to the many factors set out in s.1(4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
The family Court, is and will continue to be supported by research. In essence, research is about generalization, but practice is about individuals. Research is important as it gives legal professionals the confidence to make placement decisions that would have been unthought-of some twenty years ago.
If you would like to speak with one of our family law specialists regarding advice on same-sex marriage, civil partnerships, adoption or any other family related matter please contact us on 01392 207020.