Unmarried couples should have right to adopt, says agency

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The Independent Online

Couples who live together in stable relationships should be given the same rights to adopt children jointly as married couples have, an adoption group said.

Couples who live together in stable relationships should be given the same rights to adopt children jointly as married couples have, an adoption group said.

The move, which would also help gay partners become joint parents, has so far been rejected by the Government because of fears of a public backlash. But a growing number of MPs are backing the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering campaign.

Currently, only one person from a cohabiting couple is legally allowed to adopt, even though social workers have to be convinced that both partners are in a stable, long-term union before handing over a child.

Experts say the rule deters unmarried couples from coming forward to adopt and runs counter to reality when 40 per cent of children are born outside wedlock and nearly three million couples cohabit. Despite this, 95 per cent of adopters are married couples. The rest are single people, including those who may have a long-term partner.

MPs are expected to voice support for a change in the law on Monday when the Government's Adoption and Children Bill receives its second reading.

Yesterday, the adoption agencies said public opinion was behind the move. A poll of 2,000 adults showed that 68 per cent wanted unmarried couples in stable relationships to be allowed to adopt jointly, and 36 per cent were strongly in favour.

Felicity Collier, the BAAF's chief executive, said a change in the law would increase the number of families able to offer permanent homes for the thousands of children in care. "This outdated law denies many vulnerable children the security of having two legal parents."

The Labour MP David Hinchliffe, chairman of the health select committee and a former senior social worker involved in adoption, said a significant number of MPs would support the move.

"Whether we are talking about unmarried heterosexual couples or gay couples, what should predominate in any decision is the welfare of the individual child."

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