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LGBTQ+ Adoption and Fostering Week - The System in England and Wales

Historically, the adoption and foster system in England and Wales predominantly catered for heterosexual couples or single individuals. However, with the enactment of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 which came into effect late 2005, same-sex couples gained equal rights to adopt, challenging outdated notions of family structure, paving the way for a more inclusive approach to parenting and caregiving. LGBTQ+ Adoption and Fostering Week focuses on encouraging more LGBTQ+ people to consider both routes to building their families.

What is adoption and fostering?

Adoption is the legal process by which a child who cannot be brought up by their birth family, becomes a permanent, legal member of a new family. The adopters become the child’s legal parents with the same rights and responsibilities as if the child were born to them. It also, significantly, extinguishes the rights of the birth parents.

The foster care system is a system in which a minor has been placed into a ward, group home or private home of a state-certified caregiver. There are many different types of fostering options; foster carers can provide short term and long-term support, emergency or respite and support care, to name a few.

Adoption and fostering are intended to give children an opportunity for a new start in life, playing a vital role in providing stable and loving homes for children in need. The robust framework takes the prospective parents or carers on a journey that involves careful assessment, training, and ongoing support. 

LGBTQ+ Adoption and Fostering

The legalisation of same-sex marriage in England and Wales, along with the Adoption and Children Act has had a significant and positive impact on the adoption and fostering system. By recognising the rights of same-sex couples to marry and build families, the legislation has opened up new opportunities for children in need of loving homes. It has expanded the pool of prospective adopters and foster carers. Couples, regardless of sexual orientation, can pursue adoption or fostering, providing a broader range of options for children awaiting placement. This has been particularly beneficial in addressing the ongoing shortage of adoptive families, by ensuring that more children have the opportunity to find permanence within a supportive family environment.

This sends a powerful message that families come in all shapes and sizes, and what truly matters is the love, stability, and care that parents provide to their children. This, in turn, has helped to create a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples who wish to become parents through adoption or fostering.

How can we help?

If you plan to adopt a child, you must meet certain criteria required by UK adoption agencies. Our dedicated family law team will be able to talk you through what you need to do to meet adoption requirements in a clear and transparent way. We will advise you at every stage of the process – making sure you understand and feel totally comfortable with each decision.

For further insights into adoption, or growing your family in other ways including matters relating to fertility law, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Irwin Mitchell’s Fertility Law Team of Excellence.