The Edit talks to children’s charity Barnardo’s about LGBTQ+ adoption.
It’s been 20 years since the Adoption and Children Act was made law in 2002, modernising the adoption process in the UK and making it legal for LGBT people to adopt. To celebrate Pride Month, The Edit caught up with Jo-Ann Swanston-King, Adoption Lead at Barnardo’s, on the adoption process for the LGBTQ+ community and how Barnardo’s is helping to change negative attitudes on the topic.
Why is it so important that LGBTQ+ people can adopt?
It is important as they form part of a diverse range of people who can offer children security and stability. They can also offer a range of skills and experiences that straight adopters might not be able to offer. Adoption can give children security and experience of family life when they are unable to get this from their birth families. Children who are adopted are likely to achieve in all areas of their lives if they have a stable and secure family life experience, and adoption can provide better life opportunities for adopted children. Each adopter will have skills and experiences they can bring to caring for an adopted child and LGBTQ+ adopters are included in this.
Has there been a rise in LGBTQ+ people adopting since it was made legal in 2002?
Yes, prior to the changes to the law LGBTQ+ people could not adopt as a couple and the changes in law made this possible.
"Children who are adopted are likely to achieve in all areas of their lives if they have a stable and secure family life experience."
Have adoption rates risen since 2002 as a result of LGBT adoption being legalised?
There has definitely been a rise in the number of approved adopters since 2002 and this has been as a direct result of government drives to increase the numbers of people who are approved. Recruitment of prospective adopters has been targeted to achieve a more diverse range of prospective adopters including LGBTQ+ people.
What is the process for LGBTQ+ people to adopt in the UK – has this changed since 2002?
LGBTQ+ people can adopt as a single person or as a couple and the process of being assessed as an adopter is the same for both LGBTQ+ and straight people. The process from registering your interest to adopt with an agency and being approved as suitable to adopt should last approximately six months, and since 2003 it is undertaken in two stages. Stage one will last approximately two months, is adopter led and involves the completion of statutory checks and references by the agency and preparation by the prospective adopter. Stage two is the assessment process and should last approximately four months.
"LGBTQ+ people can adopt as a single person or as a couple and the process of being assessed as an adopter is the same for both LGBTQ+ and straight people."
Would you say LGBTQ+ adoption has been normalised?
LGBTQ+ adopters are seen as a valuable resource for children who need adoption and Barnardo’s welcomes enquiries from LGBTQ+ people who want to consider extending their family through adoption. There are a lot of resources such as books and films that can support children to understand that families look different and children waiting for adoption will be prepared with this in mind. As always there might be some general attitudes that don’t support LGBTQ+ adoption and prospective adopters will be supported to look at how they will respond to any negative attitudes and how they will support children with this too.
Do all adoption agencies allow LGBTQ+ adoption, or is there is still some reluctance in certain places?
In England it is against the law to refuse someone an application to register their interest to adopt based on their sexuality. There are some agencies who are more experienced on recruiting, training and approving LGBTQ+ adopters, so it is important that if you are interested in adopting as an LGBTQ+ person that you find an agency that you feel is the right fit to support you in your adoption journey.
How could attitudes towards LGBTQ+ adoption be further helped, thus making the process easier and more desirable for LGBTQ+ couples?
The process is the same for LGBTQ+ families as it is for heterosexual families, however social workers from Barnardo’s regularly access diversity training that includes looking at practice around assessing LGBTQ+ families that aims to support a better assessment experience for LGBTQ+ people.
Barnardo’s values the diversity that LGBTQ+ families can bring to adoption, and it is important that the images and messages we use highlights this. We also encourage our LGBTQ+ families to become a member of New Family Social of which Barnardo’s is a member agency. This gives them access to peer support which we know is invaluable.