How to adopt in the UK if you are LGBTQ+

Adoption is a popular choice with LGBTQ+ couples who can’t conceive a child on their own.

With that being said, it’s understandable that members of that community could have some different questions about the process than their straight counterparts.

For Metro.co.uk’s Adoption Month, we’ve already put together a comprehensive guide on how to adopt in the UK, but we’ve gathered some extra information on adoption specifically relevant to prospective LGBTQ+ adopters.

Is it harder to adopt if you’re LGBTQ+?

Even though single people of any sexual orientation have been able to adopt a child in England since the legal practice first started, it’s only since the Adoption and Children Act of 2002 came into effect that same-sex couples have been able to adopt a child as a pair.

Before that, adoption for people in same-sex relationships had to be done under the name of one person in the couple.

Nowadays, the only people who are automatically excluded from adopting a child in the UK are:

  • Those under 21
  • Those who haven’t been living in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least a year
  • Those with a record of criminal convictions against children or other serious offences. This also applies to other adults living in your household. Other offences on your record could count against you, but won’t automatically exclude you.

A representative for children’s charity Barnardo’s tells us: ‘The adoption process is the same for LGBTQ+ people and couples as for all other adopters – there is no difference just because you identify as LGBTQ+.

‘Barnardo’s supports LGBTQ+ people adopting children – and were one of the first charities to do so. We believe fiercely in the importance of a loving home for children who do not have one, and provide training and support for all our amazing adoptive families.’

They add: ‘Barnardo’s is also a member of New Family Social Network, the UK’s peer support network for adopters and foster carers who are LGBTQ+.

‘When you adopt through Barnardo’s, you become a member of the NFS network meaning you’ll have access to dedicated online forums and a wealth of events held across the country – some for all the family and some are for the parents only. If you are interested in adopting with Barnardo’s the best thing to do is to contact us so we can chat through any worries or concerns you may have.’

A representative for adoption charity and family support provider Pact tells us ‘myths around adoption and the thought they may not be eligible to adopt’ are the main challenges faced by LGBTQ+ prospective adopters.

They say: ‘Adoption agencies and local authorities have a legal duty not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

‘In 2019, 1 in 7 adopters in England were to same-sex adopters and at PACT in 2019 – 2020 31% of our adopters identified as LGBTQ+. However, people do worry that they may be judged during the assessment process. PACT social workers are very experienced with working people’s unique circumstances and looking at strengths.

‘For instance, if an applicant is worried that elements of their own childhood were challenging it may be that their social worker will see this as a strength and that this will enable the applicant to have a level of understanding for their adoptive child/ren.’

Rob Langley-Swain, who has been through the adoption process and is now Director of Membership with Adoption UK – a national charity run by and for adopters – tells us he and his partner have only faced ‘small’ challenges in the face of hetronormativity.

He says: ‘I think there is a perception for some in the LGBTQ+ community that it is going to be harder for them because they are gay/bi/trans etc and I don’t believe that is the case.

‘The only challenges we’ve ever faced because we are ‘two dads’ have been small – one was when trying to register the children at our local doctor’s surgery, we were told it was ‘normal’ for the mother to be present.

‘This was frustrating and after a long discussion with the surgery receptionist, I informed her that it was impossible to have the mother present because the boys were adopted by two men and there was no mother in the family, so she might need to update her ageing processes.

‘The second one, and this has been the only isolated case we’ve experienced of homophobia, is that one girl in our youngest son’s class at school told him that her mum said she couldn’t be his friend anymore because he had ‘gay dads’.

‘Our son turned round and said “That’s ok, I didn’t want to be your friend anyway”.’

Do you need to be in a relationship?

No, you can be single and still adopt a child.

If you are in a relationship, the strength of your partnership will likely be evaluated, with the website for national information service First4Adoption saying: ‘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.’

In addition to that, adoption charity and family support provider Pact asks that couples have been living together for a minimum of two years, and the assessment process will also seek to establish how stable your relationship is.

How LGBTQ+ people can prepare for adoption

Research is important for any adoption. Rob adds:’Read lots and often while you’re going through the process, in advance of starting the process and even after you’ve been placed with children. It is lifelong learning’

Rob also recommends gathering a good support network, telling us: ‘Don’t just rely on your existing friends and family – they’ll be invaluable too, but having connections with other parents who are going through the same challenges and frustrations will really benefit your emotional wellbeing during the process to finding your family and beyond in the long years ahead as your children grow and develop with you.

‘I think it is also important to not only think about yourselves as being part of the LGBTQ+ adoption community but just being part of the wider adopter community – our kids in particular aren’t bothered about spending all their time with “other two dad families just like them” – they’re less worried about having gay dads and more concerned with just coming to terms with the stigma of “being adopted”.

PACT also recommends that you should ‘talk to adopters’ who’ve already been through it.

They add: ‘PACT offers prospective adopters the opportunity to talk to one of our adopters and to social workers to find out more.

‘Spend time with children in your family and friends and look for voluntary work which will give you the opportunity to build up your rapport, experience and skills with children. It can be a good idea to look for ways to volunteer with children who may find life more challenging for a variety of reasons. We are able to provide ideas about this.

‘Talk to your close family and friends about adoption. It is so important that as an adoptive parent you have people around you who will be able to support you practically, emotionally and in an emergency.

‘Find out what your employer’s adoption leave looks like and look to getting your finances in the best shape to leave you free to put all of your attention on your family.

‘It is important to look at the on-going support an adoption agency can provide. Understand the options open to adopters – you can choose to adopt through a Local Authority, a Regional Adoption Agency or an adoption charity (or voluntary adoption agency) such as PACT.’

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How to adopt a child

Once you’ve decided to adopt, you’ll then need to choose whether you want to adopt from a local authority or enlist the help of an agency.

Children up for adoption are the responsibility of their local authority, which will recruit prospective parents for adoption, while adoption agencies both approve adoptive parents and try to find children for them to adopt on their behalf.

Pact says becoming an approved adopter can take roughly six months. After that, the time it takes to be matched to a child can vary depending on the situation.

Those who are more ‘open-minded’ about the children they’d adopt are more likely to find the process quicker.

Rob says: ‘Be open when it comes to the children you will consider adopting.

‘It’s good to have an ideal in your mind but be prepared to bend on that expectation and be open to children that don’t fit your initial ideal.

‘We always said we wanted to adopt a sibling group of two children under the age of four and preferably a girl and a boy. We ended up adopting two boys who were both over the age of four and we would never change a thing about that.’

He also implores people to consider adopting older children, saying: ‘Our eldest was seven when he came home to us and he was on the verge of being placed in permanent foster care which would have been such a different life for him and doesn’t bear thinking about.

‘Prospective adopters shouldn’t rule out the other children who are deemed to be harder to place – black, Asian and ethnic minority children, large sibling groups, older children and children with disabilities. They all need a loving and stable home.’

When asked what he’d tell non-straight people who have decided on adoption, Rob says: ‘I would say go for it with all your heart and your head.

‘Adoption is always going to be my preferred route of family creation for LGBTQ+ families. It doesn’t come without its challenges, it is an emotional rollercoaster, but it is so fulfilling and rewarding.

‘Don’t worry about what the kids might think or feel about having two mums or two dads etc, they’ll adjust to their new normal and will love you for just being their parents.’

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from 14-19 October, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]

  • Why we’re talking about adoption this month
  • How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
  • First person: After we adopted we discovered our kids had Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • How to watch our weekly conversations with adoptive parents

Visit our Adoption Month page for more.

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