According to new figures, there are more than twice as many children waiting for families than there are adopters, with Adoption UK marking the start of National Adoption Week by urging more people to change the life of a child.
Statistics released by Adoption Match based on data from The Adoption Register for England reveals that there are 1,135 children waiting to be adopted but just 407 families approved to adopt, with the shortfall in the number of adoptive parents partly blamed on common misconceptions around who can and cannot adopt.
Of the children up for adoption, almost a third (29%) are black and minority ethnic, 57% are boys, and 55% are in sibling groups of two or more, with Adoption UK promoting the fact that adoptive parents can be single or unmarried; gay, bisexual, or transsexual; disabled, living on benefits; and while no upper age limit exists, you do have to be aged 21 or older.
“Children who are older, part of a sibling group, or have special needs are always harder to match – so there is an urgent need for families who can meet their needs," said Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, Adoption UK’s chief executive. “When it comes to a child’s development, it’s not the sexual orientation, or gender, or age, or race of their parent(s) that’s important.
"Rather, the resilience of those individuals and the quality of the family relationships are what really matter," Dr Armstrong Brown added.
Adoption UK member Dr Peter McParlin was 59 when he and his husband, then aged 55, decided to adopt, and said: “I was 60 when our six-year-old son came into our lives. He’s been with us for two years. Yes, it’s been challenging, but challenges can also keep you young. It’s also been hugely enjoyable, but it would be crass to say it’s easy-peasy.
"Our son has ADHD and has also had the awful experience of his first adoption disrupting," Peter added. “Would I recommend to folk in their late forties and older to embrace the challenge of adoption? I most certainly would, and so would my partner.
"I’m of the opinion that there are a good few thousand older people who could offer something invaluable to a child desperate for a home, and loving parents.”
Alex was the first transsexual to adopt from his local authority when his son Cassius, then aged 18 months, was placed with him three years ago. He said: “I always planned on adopting but assumed I’d do it as a couple. I didn’t imagine that transitioning could be a barrier but I assumed wrongly for a long time that a single man couldn’t adopt.
“In my day-to-day life I am a man and a father," he added. "No one questions either fact. I don’t come out as being trans or an adopter unless I want the other person to know, for a good reason.”
Alex’s message to members of the trans community considering adopting a child, is: “If you’ve transitioned and sorted out your own identity you’ve probably got a great deal of resilience and self-reliance. So if you’re up for another huge challenge and making a real difference to a child who needs supporting while working out their own identity, go for it!
But bear in mind your life will completely change yet again, and like transition, there isn’t a way back."
People who want to take the first step to adoption can start by contacting Adoption UK. There is a free helpline and membership provides expert advice, access to legal help and a range of fantastic offers on training, shopping and family activities.