For Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith the issue of same sex
and unmarried adoptions has done nothing but harm his attempts to
unite the party, writes David
The rebellion by several high profile colleagues in a
parliamentary vote on whether same sex and unmarried couples should
be allowed to adopt children, prompted a crisis in the Tory
party with talk of a challenge to Duncan Smith. Shadow cabinet
minister John Bercow resigned because he could not back his leader
in opposing the widening of adoption law.
In all the fuss about whether Duncan Smith had the makings of a
future prime minister it seemed to be forgotten that an important
principle of adoption law was at stake. It was also overlooked that
single gay people could already adopt children.
Eventually of course, despite stern resistance from the House of
Lords, an amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill put forward
by David Hinchliffe MP, was passed by both houses of parliament and
included in the bill which has now become law.
Recent research by Baaf Adoption and Fostering showed that of
430 children studied not a single adoption enquiry was made of 129,
and for eight children the only enquiry came from unmarried or same
There is a shortage of couples suitable to adopt children, and
the situation could be helped by a widening of the eligbility
criteria, as BAAF argued in representations to MPs.
The move is popular with the public. A recent MORI survey showed
that 82 per cent of cohabiting couples and 68 per cent of married
couples agree that unmarried couples should be allowed to
Also, the government is desperate to increase the number of
adoptions by up to 50 per cent and the more couples that are
eligible the better as far as ministers are concerned.
Health minister Jacqui Smith said of the new act: “It will
underpin our drive to speed up the adoption process and deliver our
target for a 40 per cent increase, and if possible a 50 per cent
increase, in the number of children who are adopted.”
The amendment was put forward by former social worker David
Hinchliffe MP, who chairs the House of Commons health select
He was pleased the Conservatives had got themselves into such a
tangle over his proposal, but more satisfied that it had finally
gone through despite stiff opposition from the Lords.
“Having done social work myself I can see this is in the best
interests of the child,” he said.
He defended same sex couple adoptions: “Everyone should have a
mother and father, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t, and we
don’t live in an ideal world.
“There are many children languishing in a children’s home who
would love a stable relationship,” he said.
So long-awaited legislation on adoption, which was postponed
because of last year’s general election is finally on the statute
book. It will be welcomed by many, but not by the Conservative
leader who is left to rue his ill-fated attempt to block its
The main measures in the the new Adoption and Children
– aligning adoption law with the Children Act 1989 to make the
child’s welfare the paramount consideration in all decisions to do
– encourage more people to adopt looked after children by
helping to ensure that the support they need is available;
– allow unmarried couples to be able to apply to adopt a child
jointly, after they have been subject to a rigorous assessment
process that will also apply to married couples and single people
wishing to adopt;
– establish a new independent review mechanism for prospective
adopters who feel they have been turned down unfairly;
– tighten up controls and safeguards on intercountry
– provide for access to information held in adoption records so
that adopted adults and their adult birth relatives may apply for
information which could be disclosed if consent is given; and
– place duty on local authorities to arrange advocacy services
for looked after children in the context of complaints.
To read a full text of the Adoption and Children Act and
the parliamentary debates
Meanwhile, Ruth Fasht, director of the Adoption Register, has
defended its performance despite latest figures showing that the
children it puts forward for adoption have a one in 35 chance of
finding parents, writes Derren Hayes.
Eight months into being fully operational, only nine out of the
317 children the register has proposed to adoption agencies to link
with parents on their books, have resulted in a ‘match’
Speaking at the Baaf Adoption and Fostering conference, Fasht
said the 317 children put forward were still “very good bets” to
match with prospective parents, but added that the register should
not be judged on how many matches are made.
“Our job is to generate viable links between potential adopters
and children that have so far been impossible to place,” Fasht
said. “It is up to agencies to turn links into matches.”
Latest figures show the register has 2,482 children and 2,230
prospective adopters on it.
The majority of children on the register are from traditionally
hard to place groups such as older boys, those with special needs
and of black and ethnic minority origin.