Inaccurate, offensive…

I am all for unconventional or even "politically
incorrect" views, but they should be well argued and backed up by
evidence. Patricia Morgan’s piece on gay and lesbian parenting (Viewpoint, 4
April) was neither.

It is true that research on gay and lesbian parenting has
methodological limitations, but Morgan does not appear to recognise that given
the tiny numbers of such parents (at least until recently), the type of
"random, properly controlled" research that she would like to see has
been virtually impossible.

In the absence of this, qualitative research, small-scale
studies and unrepresentative samples need to be undertaken, while recognising
their limitations. Morgan appears to believe that the failure to carry out
larger-scale research studies is some sort of conspiracy, rather than a genuine
difficulty in researching this area.

However, it is in her concluding paragraphs that Morgan’s
argument becomes positively offensive. First, she states that there are
differences in "parenting outcomes", with more children of gay and
lesbian parents "becoming homosexual themselves". I do not know the
research upon which this is based, but would have to question whether this is
in fact a legitimate "outcome". The question is whether these
children are happy, fulfilled people able to participate fully in society and
sustain happy intimate relationships. Does it matter whether they are gay or
straight? If, as seems to be the case, her real argument is that
"producing" gay or lesbian children is a poor "outcome",
she should make her value position clear. If she does not believe that, then
why does she even mention it?

Second, Morgan uses her arguments to conclude that adoption
law should not be changed to allow same sex or unmarried couples to adopt
children. Leaving aside the strange introduction of unmarried couples in the
final sentence of an article that has not mentioned them up to that point, she
has presented no research or arguments to support this position.

If her own argument that we should try to base policy on
evidence is to be taken seriously, she should at least try to provide some
evidence that these groups are not fit to adopt. Of course, there is no such
evidence, because the truth is that there are no groups – married or unmarried,
lone parent or couple, gay or straight – who always make good parents or who
are always unfit to be parents.

The ability of people to provide the love and discipline
that children need to flourish is not a function of their sexual orientation,
marital status or any other arbitrary factor. It is a function of the sort of
person they are, and in particular of their ability to sustain nurturing and
loving relationships. To suggest that this is something only married, straight
people are capable of is inaccurate and offensive.

Donald Forrester
Research fellow
Brunel University

…..but predictable

If we relied on "solid" research to dictate solely
how public policy is based, then there would be very few people left to parent
(Viewpoint, 4 April). Research shows that many people, belonging to all types
of minorities and majorities, struggle to parent because of the injustices and
inequalities of society, and through lack of community and social support.
These aren’t grounds for denying such people the right to be parents.

It doesn’t require much reading between the lines to see
that Patricia Morgan seems to view homosexual people as inferior and, horror of
horrors, that gay people may be more likely to produce more homosexual people
(evidence please).

With links to the Christian Institute, which campaigns for
keeping section 28, this homophobia is predictable, but still disappointing.

It is such homophobia, under the banner of distorted
Christian values or other disguises, that is damaging to us all: parents and
young people, gay, bisexual or straight. This bigotry, combined with the need
to see being white, married, straight and Christian as superior to anything
else, actually contributes to parenting difficulties in today’s society.

Eamonn Kirk

Don’t take sides

In yet another editorial you are scathing about the NHS
(Editorial comment, 4 April). There are many strengths and weaknesses in social
care services and the NHS. Many of us who are trying to integrate services
harness those strengths and learn from our weaknesses. Services are trying to
constructively engage in providing meaningful and accessible services to our
clients. Many of us are moving past the point where cheap pot-shots are taken
at other services in order to make ourselves feel better about what we do or do
not do.

Tony Fahy
Mid and North Devon Learning Disability Services

GPs and child protection

I am a GP who works on the boundaries of four London
Boroughs. Child protection case conferences seem to occur when I do my busiest
morning surgery (Monday). Many are held at social services head offices (three
are a one-hour round trip on the tube, with no local parking) or a distant
hospital. This is inconvenient for local families and professionals. One local
borough takes child protection referrals on its "one stop shop" phone
line – sensible perhaps for concerned neighbours but I am uncomfortable
expressing vague misgivings or serious allegations to a generic call centre
operator who also does parking and pest control.

Our four child protection handbooks are the size of
telephone directories with no summary. They are written in a style of English I
was never taught.

I did once attend a case conference (on my afternoon off
before a weekend on call). It was excellent and I learned a lot. Sensitively
facilitated, non-threatening and perhaps even therapeutic for the family

Case conferences should be held near a child’s home and GP
surgery. More use should be made of phones and teleconferencing. If a distant
meeting is vital then reimburse the cost to the GP practice of an agency locum
– £150 – if they can get one.

Stephen Nickless

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