When I first came out to my parents, their immediate reaction was, ‘but you won’t be able to have children!’.
My Mum spent a lot of time telling me how she thought I’d be a really great Dad and that she was really disappointed my genes wouldn’t be replicated. I’m sure a lot of you know the story, well-meaning parents who unfortunately put a lot of pressure on you. I knew I wanted kids too, and I wasn’t sure how this was going to happen. I didn’t know of any stories of kids being raised by gay parents, I had no idea about surrogacy and at this point I wasn’t aware that adoption or fostering by gay parents was legal or accepted. It was hard to think that, simply because of who I loved, my dreams of raising children would be dashed. I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to read my daughter a bed time story, take my son to see Father Christmas, cheer my kids on as they sang, danced, acted, played sports.
Fast forward seven years and things have seriously changed. Numerous pieces of legislation have been put in place to show that gay couples can, and should be allowed to offer loving and stable homes for children. There are so many stories now of children raised by gay and lesbian parents. Even celebrities like Elton John and David Furnish are getting in on the act. Same-sex partners can legally adopt their partner’s children, meaning a child can grow up in a safe and loving environment.
Not only is it legal, but LGBT couples are being specifically targeted by adoption organisations. Last week was LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, and we saw numerous adoption agencies coming out and appealing to LGBT couples and singletons to considering fostering and adoption as an option in the future. Stonewall have produced guides to show gays and lesbians how they can get involved in adoption, and the legal framework around it. Barnardo’s, one of the country’s leading adoption and fostering organisations put out an appeal for LGBT parents. Its Adoption Development Manager said:
“Nationally, 9000 foster carers need to be found, and there are currently 9000 children waiting to be adopted, the highest since 2007. Barnardo’s is keen to hear from many more members of the LGBT community throughout the UK who are considering whether they can create a loving family for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children”.
The process clearly isn’t easy. It requires a lot of time and effort, a relatively long vetting process and finding the right fit. However, this process is worth it when you consider what you can give to a child who needs it. A loving and supportive home gives a child a much better start in life. The majority of children awaiting adoption are between 1 and 4, the most important age to make sure they develop properly. Offering a stable home to a foster child, even if just for a few months, will go a long way to help them root themselves properly.
I know that, when I meet the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, and when we decide that we can raise a child, adoption is going to be high on our list. My Mum won’t be pleased that my genes aren’t being passed on, but if I can offer a stable and loving home to a child (or children) that needs it then that’s something I have to do. Gay parents can offer so much to children and, with equal marriage being a real prospect in the near future, gay families are going to be as normal as the standard nuclear family model. We should embrace this opportunity, and I’d urge all of you considering raising children to think about adoption and fostering; it can only be a good thing for you and for the children.