It’s no secret that the standard idea of what a family looks like has changed over the past few decades. The typical nuclear family of two parents of opposite genders and two children is not the norm any more. Thanks to legal processes such as the Adoption and Children Act of 2002, and progress in the gender equality movements, the UK is seeing new types of families become much more widely accepted. Children nowadays may come from a nuclear style household, or they could have same-sex parents, single parents, guardians who are relatives or not, foster parents or adoptive families. While the whole picture of change within the UK family dynamic is great news, it’s adoption we’re focusing in on today.
Adoption is the process of legally taking in a child to be raised as your own, by becoming a non-biological parent. The European Parliament defines adoption as “a welfare and protection measure that enables an orphaned or definitively abandoned child to benefit from a permanent family”, with the main objective always being placing the child in need into a safe and caring environment. Adoption can occur in three forms: Domestic Adoption (where the adoptive parents and child have the same nationality and country of residence); Intercountry Adoption (which involves a change in the child’s country of residence); and International Adoption (which is within the child’s country of residence but with adoptive parents of a different nationality to that of the child).
There are several hoops adoptive parents need to jump through in order to complete the process through, with every governing body and charitable organisation in the sector campaigning to make 100% sure that the interests of the child are protected. We make all joke about the way celebrities always make the news when they adopt children, usually through an international adoption, but the reality of the matter is that the adoption process is nowhere near simple. While you have the option of going through your local council agency or a voluntary agency, every prospective adoptive parent must go through an approval process which can take up to 6 months. This is where our sector comes into play, as a social worker will be assigned to the case to check that the parent or family is suitable. As a society we value the protection of children greatly, so it’s vital that an adopted child will be looked after, protected and loved. An orphaned or abandoned child desperately needs an environment without threats so it’s up to social workers, adoption agencies, police checks and more red tape to do all we can to make sure that’s what will await them post-adoption.
The UK has the highest number of domestic adoptions out of all the EU nations, highlighting the strength of family ties in the UK, irrelevant of biological connections. The UK recognises that families can come in all shapes and sizes; and understand that there are children out there who need and deserve loving families. It also shows how the UK has set up legal proceedings to support non-stereotypical families, by legalising gay marriage, increasing the rights of civil partnerships and helping single parents to adapt and cope. We also recognise that not every woman may want to be pregnant but that does not automatically disqualify them from wanting a family. Both law and society has caught up with the reality of love and family, it is a state of mind rather than a biological fact.
While the gender pay gap may still be an issue, women are now so much more in control of their own lives and able to be independent; allowing for them to start families without necessarily needing a partner for financial stability, as they did historically. Single parents are facing far less of a structural stigma, which means parenthood is being seen as a viable option for single people ready for a family. Alongside sperm donors, surrogates and IVF treatments stands adoption, a process ready to unite someone ready and willing to grow their family with a child in need of a parent.
So why should we put a spotlight on adoption, when it has become such normal thing in our country? Simply put, it’s for that exact reason. Adoption has become normal. What a brilliant state of affairs that is for a country that used to shame illegitimate children, rarely let girls inherit and saw homosexuality as a crime until 1967. We should all celebrate how far our society has come and how much more accepting and welcoming we now are of every form of love and family. Not everyone fits into the tidy box of mother, father and two children: and that’s completely fine! Adoption has played such a big part in helping people complete their families, whether they chose it due to biological issues preventing them from conceiving or simply because of personal preference. Adoption helps so many different demographics within the UK, the least we can do is to highlight it to our extended One Stop Social community.