‘Adoption System Overhaul Is Futile Without An Increase In Funding’

New laws to open up the adoption system to gay and unmarried couples will not reduce the number of children in care unless extra funding is provided to help support prospective parents. That was the stark warning this weekend from adoption agencies, who said families could be left with inadequate support if funding for social work and psychological services is not improved.

Scotland’s adoption laws will receive their first major update in nearly 25 years when the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill is passed this Thursday at Holyrood. The bill will allow unmarried couples, including gay and lesbian couples, to jointly adopt for the first time.

Maureen Kanell, practice manager for the Scottish Adoption Association, which recruits and prepares adoptive parents, said: “The new bill will help but it needs to be well resourced to increase the support we are able to provide. We would love to be in a position where a lot of people are expressing interest in adoption, but the problem we have now is the amount of time it takes to go through the system. We need more people to process applications.”

One prospective father said that the lengthy adoption process could be discouraging. It has taken him and his wife more than three years to adopt four siblings under the age of 10. The children have lived with the couple in the Borders for over a year while awaiting the adoption to be finalised. “It now just has to be rubber stamped but it is a very long process,” he said.

“It has taken even longer because the social work department we were working with was understaffed. That could put some people off. It is important to encourage as many people as possible to come forward and adopt, regardless of lifestyle, as there aren’t enough people out there stepping forward to provide a good stable home.”

Lesbian mother of five Margaret Smith MSP said same-sex couples would boost the pool of adoptive parents but also warned that resources must increase: “It adds to the pool of people that can come forward to adopt and we are likely to be able to give more kids a stable home. There was an issue raised in the second stage debate over the number of social workers and the ongoing work that needs to be done and deputy minister for young people Robert Brown is aware of that. There will be a need for further support in the system.”

A spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: “The biggest problem for us is the practical constraints around the rate of change that can be achieved. Simply put, the availability of money, staffing and prospective families has not kept up with the growth in children no longer able to stay with their birth parents.”

A Scottish Executive spokesperson said that a working group had been established to explore the issue with councils and that requests for additional resources would be considered during the next spending review.

The number of children adopted by homosexual couples has soared since gay adoption became legal in England in November 2002. Celebrity interior designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan revealed last year that they intend to be among the first Scots to take advantage of the new legislation.

They intend to adopt and raise a child in their home city of Glasgow. “We’d show a child, and anyone less than comfortable with us being a gay couple, we’re no different from them. We are every bit as important as other people,” said Ryan.