Bending the rules for better adoption

Yvonne Roberts says letting cohabitees and gay
couples adopt may lead to a better future for children in care

The adoption bill now going through parliament
may, for the first time, allow cohabiting and lesbian and gay
couples to offer a home to a child in care.

week’s announcement immediately drew fire from the Conservative
peer Baroness Young who has pledged to fight the proposed changes.
She is backed by right-wing campaigners who label themselves
“pro-family” by which they mean, “pro the 1950s family” in which
father worked, mother ruled the domestic empire and their two
children flourished. Except it was these offspring who subsequently
grew up to become the divorce generation.

paradox of the position of those against diversity is that they
idealise the institution of marriage, while at the same time
castigating social workers for also pursuing the ideal of the
couple with no apparent faults – not too old, too fat, too
religious or too addicted to cigarettes.

report last week from BAAF Adoption and Fostering reported on the
results of the BBC TV programmes on adoption last year and the year
before. Twenty-four thousand people applied to adopt. After a year,
less than one in 10 of the 220 children put up for adoption had
found a new home. Black children were the least successfully
matched, many held back by the rule on same-race

course, it might be that the majority of the viewers who applied
were totally unsuitable. We do not know because, as critics have
consistently pointed out, there is a lack of transparency in the
selection system. Nor do we know enough about whether the criteria
– and the rigidity with which they are often applied – are actually
effective in creating stable happy homes.

is required is both short-term research and a major longitudinal
study following up children and parents every three to five years
post-adoption and listening to what they have to say. (How many
children, for instance, experience the divorce of their
non-biological parents and with what consequences?) In addition,
there is a need for a greater acknowledgement that a social
worker’s instincts might sometimes result in a happy and productive
match even though the official stipulations on who makes a suitable
candidate have been broken.

is always involved in trying to give a child in care a future;
parenting is never easy. Permitting cohabitees and lesbians and
gays to adopt shows signs that a little unorthodoxy is creeping
into the process – but for the sake of the children, we need a
whole lot more.

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