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Bill will allow unmarried couples to adopt

29 March 2006

Unmarried and gay couples will be able to adopt or foster children, under the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill just published.

The overhaul of the country's adoption system, which follows a report by a review group under Sheriff Principal Graham Cox published last June, is aimed at ensuring more vulnerable youngsters enjoy the benefits of a stable home life.

The bill intends to:

  • modernise the law to secure more stability and permanence in the lives of vulnerable children;
  • introduce new "permanence orders", an alternative particularly for older children who want to maintain contact with their birth family;
  • increase children's rights and security;
  • provide better support for adopted children and families, including natural grandparents.
Education and Young People Minister Peter Peacock said the new law came at a time when the number of adoptions in Scotland was falling and the number of children living in seriously chaotic households was rising.

The number of adoptions in Scotland has fallen from 1,000 a year 20 years ago to around 400 a year now.

He said: "No one has a right to adopt under our proposals, and the selection process of who can adopt is tough. Only those couples who can demonstrate they are in an enduring family relationship and can make a positive difference to a child's life will be successful."

Barbara Hudson, Scottish Director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said: "The legislation affirms the value of adoption but recognises that this is not the right plan for all children and has introduced a new concept, the 'permanence order'.

"Permanence orders will make it easier for long-term plans to be made for children. It will also mean foster carers can share some of the responsibility for day-to-day decisions, which will help these children feel part of their foster family."

Cathy Dewar, of Scottish Adoption, said: "We particularly welcome the section on support for adoption. Support for adoption is for this agency the least well funded part of the adoption service. And yet it is an ever expanding area of work."

"We believe that at point of placement, adoptive parents should be provided with a written agreement on what services will be available to them and their child throughout childhood. This should be drawn up by the placing agency and should involve all relevant parties."