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Adoption and Children Bill


4th November 2002

Mr Jonathan Djanogly: The founding principle of the Bill is that the child should be of paramount importance in the adoption process, not the parents of the adoptive parents, be they married, not married, hetrosexual or, indeed, homosexual. I believe that the proposals to allow adoption by unmarried parents give the wrong answer to the basic question of how we can ensure that more children in need of adoption are adopted.

There are more than 50,000 children in care in our country. The problem is not they type of person who can adopt, but our culture of adoption. It is a question not of discrimination against unmarried couples, be they opposite or, indeed, same sex, but of what is best for the child. What will give the child the best chance in the society of today - not the society of the future or the society some hon. Members would like to see - in which the child will be brought up?

I am sure that all hon. Members present have received an enormous amount of documentation from any number of organisations that maintains that marriage is the best state for adoptive parents. However, I do not necessarily take the advice of professionals working in adoption as the be all and end of all of what is right for society as a whole.

From my experience, I admit that sometimes personal circumstances - perhaps if a strong foster or other relationships already exists - can mean that it is correct that a person, whether single or gay, or an unmarried couple, should be entitled to adopt. That is what the existing law allows.

Some 95 per cent of adopted children are placed with married couples, because of the way in which the law operates at present. We need to appreciate that the vast majority of adopted children are not adopted as babies. Even if it were acceptable that non-marrieds should regularly be able to adopt - which I do not accept - most adopted children will know, by reason of their age, that children normally have parents who are married and not of the same sex. Indeed only 0.1 per cent of households are same-sex households.

Surveys have proved that in such cases children will often keep the identity of their parents a secret, both at school and from peers. Furthermore, as has been mentioned, couples who cohabit out of marriage are statistically almost twice as likely to separate than those who are married.

We must appreciate that different parts of the country will or may have different attitudes. That is reflected in the current system in which most adoptions take place through local authorities. That means that elected, accountable representatives can dictate policy in the area of adoption.

Some 85 per cent of the population are against same-sex couples adopting, and 95 per cent of children are adopted by married parents. To a great extent, that means that the current system represent what people want. The supporters of the motion to disagree with the Lords' amendment would have us believe that, as the hon. Member for Wakefield said, non-married adoption is necessary to encourage adoptive parents to come forward and broaden the adoption pool. It could be argued that the proposals are the opposite of what is needed. Statistics show that there is no shortage of people who want to adopt. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Nunn) made the important point that is a question not of who wants to adopt but of who is acceptable to the professionals.

Last year only 4,000 children were adopted in this country, of whom only 3,100 came from the 50,000 children in care. The hon. Member for Wakefield said that 5,000 children out of that pool of 50,000 were waiting for adoption. I suggest that the figure should be much higher than 10 per cent.

If further suggest that accepting the proposals will not widen the pool. We need a new culture of adoption. We need a culture that insists on clinics for adoption as much on clinics for abortion; that does not discriminate against white parents adopting black children; that stops patronising and blocking the efforts of decent prospective parents; and that does not force them through a system that often demeans and intimidates them and delays applications.

When the BBC ran a programme on adoption, there were 19,000 inquiries during its first year and 24,000 in the second year. What happened to all those people? Initial research by the BBC showed that most of them seemed to have been put off by local authorities.

To those people who hold the interests of the child paramount, I say that the proposals to allow same-sex and non-married couples to adopt are misguided. They will not work in the best interests of the child and, importantly, they will miss the root cause of the problem that faces us.



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