From the earliest days of adoption in England, it has been possible for single people (regardless of sexual orientation) to adopt. Same sex couples could not adopt and although adoption agencies helped many couples by approving one of the couple singly, it took a change in law from December 2005 to allow adoption orders to be granted to unmarried couples including same sex couples.
Since that time adoption agencies have been able to openly recruit and assess lesbian and gay couples, as well as single adopters, there are many more LGBT adopters and the numbers continue to increase, for some agencies up to 10% of their adopters are LGBT people.
The majority of adoption agencies now have experience of assessing, approving and placing children with LGBT adopters and the UK is now one of the world leaders in this respect.
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 gave unmarried couples, including same sex couples, the right to adopt, and this became law in December 2005. If you are a same sex couple you don’t need to be in a Civil Partnership or married to adopt, you will need to show that you are living together in an enduring relationship.
Single adopters are also welcome whatever their sexual orientation.
You must be aged 21 or over and there is no upper age limit, as long as you are fit enough to cope with the rigours of parenting and to see children through to early adulthood.
You should not experience discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. After equalities legislation was passed in 2006 a few adoption agencies (with religious objections) ceased operating. All agencies are committed to equal treatment of all potential adopters and in fact may positively welcome applications from LGBT adopters.
There has been encouraging research recently into parenting by lesbian and gay adopters. This has helped to dispel myths and increase agencies’ confidence in placing children. A recent UK study shows, for instance that:
The quality of parent-child relationships is just the same when children are adopted by lesbian or gay couples compared to heterosexual couples.
Children’s psychological development and wellbeing is just the same when children are adopted by lesbian or gay couples compared to heterosexual couples.
Lesbian and gay adopters are more likely than heterosexual adopters to have come to adoption as their first choice.
Lesbian and gay adopters felt well equipped to help children deal with difference and that children would have advantages growing up of being tolerant of difference in others.
Adopted children of lesbian and gay parents don’t experience greater problems at school and in peer relationships compared to children of heterosexual parents, and bullying and teasing is rare.
Because the numbers are small adoption agencies may not have experience of transgender people who wish to adopt. However the same laws apply, you can adopt whatever your sexual orientation and are protected from discrimination.
Talk to New Family Social, see Harriet and Lizzie’s story and remember you can make initial enquiries of as many adoption agencies as you wish, before deciding which one to apply to adopt through.
There are well established organisations that offer support groups and information for LGBT people who have adopted or are thinking of adopting.
Jackie & Victoria share their experience of being gay adopters and the importance of a good support network. New Family Social – an organisation led by lesbian, gay, bi- or trans adopters and foster carers, forming a UK LGBT network with local groups.
This organisation can put you in touch with other adopters, as well as those deciding how to form a family or on the way to parenting.
We hope this information has helped answer some questions you may have. If you feel ready to approach an adoption agency you can find adoption agencies that cover your area through our agency finder. Alternatively call 0300 222 0022 and speak with one of our advisers who will provide you with details of adoption agencies.
Agencies are happy to give information and answer questions even if you’re not yet sure about adoption, so do contact them if you want to find out more.
Watch our webcast below as Rupert and Tor discuss their experiences as LGBT adopters
In November 2002, the Adoption and Children Act passed into law and, for the first time, allowed unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to apply for joint adoption. You can also adopt as an individual.
Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. This means an adoption agency must assess you fairly, using the same criteria. They could not turn down an adoption application just because the applicant was LGBT. How to adopt
Applications for adoption must be made to an adoption agency.
The adoption assessment is lengthy and thorough. If you are a couple applying to adopt you will both be assessed, and will need to demonstrate the stable and enduring nature of your relationship.
Following a successful assessment the application is referred to an Adoption Panel. If you are approved by the Panel, you will go through a matching process.
This involves a child or young person being placed with you. Depending on the success of this placement, an application can be made to the court for an adoption order. At this stage further reports will be placed before the court to help them reach a final decision.
Once a child has been placed with them the couple must decide which one of them will elect to take adoption leave (the ‘primary adopter’). The other will normally be entitled to paternity leave.
If the primary adopter returns to work before the end of their adoption leave entitlement, the remaining period of adoption leave can be shared between the two adopting parents, in accordance with the rules on Shared Parental Leave.
Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are also eligible to foster, as individuals or as a couple. Fostering involves providing a home for a young person who cannot live with their parents because of problems with their families, or because they are going through a difficult period of their life.
There are several types of fostering; some foster parents provide emergency or short-term placements for children while problems are resolved, and others provide long-term foster care. For some people fostering is a route into adoption.
People applying to become foster parents will experience a similar process to those applying to become adopters, and it takes about six months.
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