PETERBOROUGH same-sex couples are becoming more confident in applying to Peterborough City Council to fulfil their wish to be parents. And two couples who spoke to deputy features editor John Baker during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Adoption and Fostering week say that – thankfully – they have encountered no prejudice.
IT is a question which can still divide: Can a homosexual couple successfully bring up an adopted child?
Society is becoming more sensitive and aware of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people legally taking on a boy or girl as their own.
But many still bridle at the thought, believing that a child is somehow missing out on an element of parenting.
Only 14 countries across the world legally permit same-sex adoption, although because the matter is often not specified by law, other countries sometimes allow legalisation through other judicial processes.
UK couples have been allowed to adopt since December 2005, while other equally open countries include Belgium, Holland, Spain and Sweden, as well as much of South America and some states in Australia and the USA.
But South Africa is the only African country to allow gay adoption, and Eastern Europe and Asia are almost exclusively forbidding.
This week is the first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Adoption and Fostering week, which aims to promote same-sex adoption and fostering through a series of events across the UK.
It comes as foster carers have just been hailed by social workers for their significant strengths in a survey commissioned by New Family Social, the charity behind LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week.
Seventy-two per cent of social workers surveyed saw the “amount of energy and enthusiasm” LGBT adopters bring to the process as a significant strength, while 76 per cent saw “openness to difference, and supporting a child with a sense of difference” as equally important.
The Evening Telegraph spoke to two same-sex couples who have adopted children in the past 18 months, with help from Peterborough City Council’s adoption and fostering team.
The pictures on this page are not our couples; they agreed to talk only on condition of anonymity, but this was for the sake of their children and not because of their sexuality.
As with every adoption their roads to parenthood were long, with numerous home visits, an eight-week assessment course and preparation course, and interviews before assessment and matching panels.
Sandra White of Peterborough City Council’s adoption team estimates that she has been involved in “95 per cent” of adoptions involving same-sex couples in the city.
Unsurprisingly, the number of applications has been rising since 2005, and Sandra said: “I would say there is a steady stream of about two to three gay families a month who enquire about adoption, out of 15-20 couples overall.
“From what I understand this varies considerably with the area, but we know that some come to us because they know other same-sex couples who have been successful.
“The only difference in the process is during the home study assessment, when we ask how they are going to explain the situation of two mums or two dads, in the same way as a single parent adopting someone would have to explain a different situation.
“But there are a lot of books out there that explain how to deal with it, and the different types of families, which make sure that families are comfortable.”
In certain circumstances a biological parent will even prefer their offspring going to a same sex couple when they are still in contact with the child.
Sandra gave the example of a mother who was delighted that her child went to two men, because it meant that there would be no other female competing with her.
That adoption has proved successful, and Sandra added: “For us it’s all about looking at what a couple has got to offer and their circumstances; whether it’s man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman.”
For more information go to www.lgbtadoptfosterweek.org.uk or fostering and adoption information from www.peterborough.gov.uk
Case study #1: Peter, William and Emily
PETER and William are the proud parents of two-year-old Emily.
The men, in their 20s and from a village outside Peterborough, have been together for eight years.
As with all adoptions it was a long and often frustrating wait for all the boxes to be ticked.
William said: “We decided on adopting a couple of years ago, because obviously we weren’t going to conceive naturally.
“We searched the local area and went to an open evening in the city, where they explained the process to us.
“Then we arranged a meeting with a social worker, to see if we would be put forward, before a house visit and a three month course.
“There were quite lot of steps to go through but I was always quite realistic, and tried to distance myself and not get too excited until it became a reality.”
The duo were approved by a panel and then it was a frustrating case of waiting for a ‘match’.
Last spring they heard about Emily, and when they first saw her...
William said: “We just knew. She was a lovely girl.
“We have been really lucky because she was with a lovely traditional family in foster care, which helped us, because although she was only a year-and-a-half she was in a really good routine.”
The couple, who entered a civil partnership in 2010, both have experience of working with children. William is a teacher and Peter is a nursery worker.
Emily moved into their home last July and has been as good as gold so far, to the point where they have not ruled out adopting other children in the future.
Firstly though they are concentrating on their daughter and the challenges ahead.
“We have had no comments. Perhaps because she has the same colour hair as me people assume I am her father, and Peter is my brother,” said William.
“There will always be those who do not approve of it, but luckily we haven’t encountered any issues.
“The main difficulty will be when she goes to school. We can’t protect her and picking the right school will be essential.
“We will teach her how to deal with things because she will come across prejudice – all children do.
“So we will make her aware at the age of three or four, or as soon as she starts asking questions like ‘where’s mum?’ - that would be natural in a one-parent family, where there is just a dad looking after a daughter.”
Looking further down the line the couple expect family friends to help if Emily feels the need to talk about puberty.
William added: “We know that there will be a lot going on then, and there may be problems in teenage years, but all families have them.
“We are going to be very open with her about all sorts of things, and we hope she will be open with us.”
Case study #2: Sophie, Anna and family
IT was always going to be a boy – or two – for Sophie and Anna.
And the two little brothers they adopted, aged six and seven, have fitted well into the household since they arrived 18 months ago.
Sophie said: “We decided we wanted a family, and one or either of us could have been a mum.
“But we didn’t want a child that was biologically connected to one parent and not the other. We wanted to help someone’s child who had struggled.
“Social services check your history, your family, and your support network. It is a long process but they know these children have had a rough start in life, so they need to know they are getting it right.
“For whatever reason we both knew we wanted boys, even when we were growing up. We don’t know why, perhaps the fact that we were both only children had something to do with it.
“That was always at the forefront of ouor minds but luckily two boys came up, who we adopted 18 months ago.
“The first time we met them we knew we were drawn to them, there was a connection. And we came away feeling that they were the ones.
“People talk about nature/nurture, but there are so many similarities between them and us.”
Going from no children to two children in September 2010 was a big step for the duo, who are both civil servants.
Sophie said: “The first few weeks we were constantly alert, thinking ‘are we doing the right thing? Are we being too strict?’ We now had two perfectly formed little people to deal with.
“It was a struggle, but on the days when everything was good, it was brilliant.”
Sophie (45) and and Anna (34) have been together for eight years, four as civil partners.
They have largely been welcomed, at the boys’ school and in the village they live in.
“I should imagine that the local community had a lot to say, but we have chatted to a lot of mums and they have been very positive,” said Sophie.
“Mostly we get comments from kids asking where the boys’ dad is, but we say that they are lucky – they have two mums instead!
“I have lived my life as a gay female for many years now, and I know that there will be people who do not approve, I know plenty of people who have encountered that but we have to respect that other people have opinions and wishes.
“The way we deal with people sometimes helps; if you are abrupt you can come across angry, and we would rather talk about the fact that we are open about things.
“As the boys get older there will be more questions, but we are quite open with them, and their friends as well, that they were adopted.
“No matter what happens we have been blessed, and it has been worth every minute.”