LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering

The 2nd-8th March 2020 marks the return of LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week supported by New Family Social and a range of agencies and charities across the country.

When we first adopted seven years ago, our paths didn’t cross with any same sex adopters. Out of ten couples on our adoption training, none were from the LGBT+ community. Four years later when we adopted for a second time, two out of the six couples on our training were from a same sex family make up. I’m hoping this is a positive sign of progression. Of society’s acceptance of this route as a way to form families.

However, there is still disparity in adoption statistics. CoramBAAF reported to year ending 31/3/19, only 14% (490) of adoptions were by same sex adopters, compared to 88% (3140) by heterosexual couples. Interestingly, this is pretty much on par with single adopters, which equated to 12% (430). I thought same sex adoption numbers would be higher. My perception is that its profile is increasing. This is true to a degree, bearing in mind a few years ago figures would have been significantly less. Pretty non existent not that long ago. There is certainly some steady progress. Positive steps are being made. But, why are the numbers still relatively low? Is something stopping people from the LGBT+ community from applying?

Through talking to people, I think there are still myths circulating out there. Big ones like people thinking they are not eligible to apply to adopt. Or you must be in a relationship or married. LGBT+ single adopter applications are welcomed in exactly the same way. I hope I’m wrong and these misconceptions are long gone. But just in case, let’s say “bye bye” to them right now!

What else could it be? I’m of course aware that parenthood might just not be on an agenda. That a high proportion of the LGBT+ community have made a life choice decision not to have children. I don’t have statistics around this, but I’m inclined to think this might be the case. But for those who do long for a family, there appears to still be some other barriers. The figures partly lead to this conclusion.

From what I hear, some same sex couples believe the adoption process will be too intense. Intrusive. That their commitment might be challenged more than heterosexual couples. I’m pretty sure, everyone embarking on adoption has similar concerns. Whoever we are, the adoption process has to be robust. Detailed. Social workers hold the highest level of responsibility in ensuring that children are placed in the right forever home for their needs. They can’t get it wrong. They must fully investigate every angle of a prospective adopters life. The repercussions could be devastating if they don’t.

So, it’s time to dispel the myths. A key focus of this awareness week. It encourages acceptance of equality and diversity. Of different family make ups. There are so many children that need safe and secure forever homes. It sounds a cliché and a bit flippant, but, they all need love. Love can be provided by anyone. By everyone. So if none of the above reasons apply, and if people can open their hearts and homes, the message is clear – why not you?

To help give an insight into same sex adoption, I’m delighted to share the views of a female couple who are currently going through the adoption process. They have already been approved and are waiting for that all-important match. Becoming parents is just around the corner for them.

There is nothing better than to hear directly from people like this. In their own words. Sharing their own feelings. Explaining what it’s really like. The truth about the good bits, and the challenges they face.

I’ve been lucky enough to connect with @thisextraordinaryhome through Instagram. I asked her about why they chose adoption over other routes, what hurdles they’ve encountered, why they think same sex couples aren’t applying, and, for any words of encouragement. This is what she had to say:

“It’s great for us to know that LGBT+ adoption and fostering is gaining such important support and awareness. My wife and I chose adoption over other routes as we didn’t feel the need to have biological children. We just wanted to be parents. We did consider other routes, but these just didn’t appeal to us. We felt that adoption was the best way for us to become parents.

The adoption process has been good for us and reasonably quick. The only delay we’ve really had was at the start of the process when we were trying to find a voluntary placement before we could start stage 1*. The agency was keen for us to gain more childcare experience before formally starting the process. At the time this was frustrating, but in hindsight it really helped us in our preparation to become parents. From the time we started Stage 1 to being approved was around 6 months. Not long at all. We have a fantastic social worker and can’t imagine our lives without her now!  

Most reactions we’ve had when telling people we are adopting, have been very positive. There is still the odd question like “Who’s going to be the dad?” and “Did you not want to have your own children?”. Overall though, our decision to adopt has been greeted with kindness and encouragement.

I think the hardest part of the process was stage 1. This really dragged out. There wasn’t a lot of information and it felt a bit like being in limbo. It was also quite ‘worst case scenario’ at times, which felt daunting. I think this does put people off as it can feel quite negative. It wasn’t until we explored everything in stage 2** that we felt more equipped to deal with the challenges of adoption. After connecting with other adopters and talking through their experiences, it seemed much more like a climbable mountain.

Thinking about the relatively low numbers of same sex adopters, perhaps if they are female, they might take more time to explore other options like IVF with donor sperm. Maybe even try this first before moving on. I also wonder if some same sex couples are hesitant about applying as they think they might encounter some prejudice. I can honestly say that we haven’t been treated any differently throughout the whole adoption process.

For us, the best part of this experience so far is that we’ve met an amazing new network of friends in other adopters. We have also grown together through the process. We understand a little more about ourselves and how we came to be the way we are – we’ve learnt that our negatives may actually be our positives!

The journey has been exciting. If I was to give anyone any words of encouragement, I would say to hold on. Be patient. It is a rollercoaster. Sometimes it gets tough, but it’s an amazing journey and we feel far more prepared to become parents. We can’t wait!”

*Stage 1: Checks and References -This first stage is centred on taking up statutory checks and references with the authorities as well as people you know and will take no longer than 2 months. ** Stage 2: Getting to know you more – In this stage of the approval process our social worker will visit you at home and talk through with you why you want to adopt, the kinds of children you would best be able to care for and your overall strengths and suitability. You will also be invited to attend more detailed training to prepare you for adoption. This stage takes 4 months. (Definitions from CoramBAAF website)

I hope you’ll agree these are powerful words of encouragement. An endorsement of the adoption process for same sex applicants. Confirmation of the equality involved with no hint of different treatment. Of course, I can’t say that everyone would have the same positive experience. Or that they will actually be approved. I couldn’t say this to any prospective adopter. I feel confident though, that if people aren’t successful, it’ll be down to other contributing factors and not due to their sexuality. What I’m also certain of, is however bumpy an adoption journey might be, that the end result will be so worth it. Becoming a parent through adoption is wonderful. It’s fulfilled me in ways that I could never have imagined.

If you are reading this and wondering if adoption could be for you, use all available resources to find out more. Social media has some fantastic same sex/LGBT+ accounts to follow. I’ve learnt so much from ones I’ve found on Instagram. Here are just a few:

@unlikelydad @twopoofsandapudding @gay_dad_of_1 @twodadsinlondon @crunchyleafmama

Do check these out. They are a pleasure to follow and it’s so heartwarming to see the joy that becoming parents has brought them. A true representation of equality and diversity. Of blended families. Of unconditional love.

There are also some other great support channels available through the likes of leading adoption charity Adoption UK. Lots of really useful information on their site. They will help to answer any questions around LGBT+ adoption and fostering.

The idea behind this week is to build on the great progress that’s already been made. To encourage more to come forward as prospective adopters. As a whole, adoption numbers are down. The gap between children needing homes and adopters, needs to be filled. So, let’s spread some joy and love this week around LGBT+ adoption. Let’s give it the coverage it deserves. Let’s make a difference.

Lastly, if you are familiar with my work, you’ll know I’m the author of an adoption storybook – The Family Fairies. If you’ve spotted it, it won’t have escaped you that it is based on the adoption journey of a heterosexual couple! I’d love to publish same sex versions, but at the moment, that’s sadly a way off. I have however had some lovely feedback from a number of same sex adopters who’ve used my book with their little ones. At the end of the day – it’s a story. A fairy tale. With a little bit of poetic licence, it could be adapted by the reader to fit their own circumstance. As parents, it’s amazing how quickly we develop our storytelling skills! So, if you’re a same sex/LGBT+ adopter, maybe you could make it work for you too. If you’d like to find out more or order a copy please click here –  Purchase a copy here.

Rosemary Lucas – supporting LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering.