From today, gay couples can adopt children, after radical reforms come into force across England and Wales

Previously, gay couples were unable to adopt a child jointly, one partner would be considered the child’s parent, with the other having no legal status.

The Adoption and Children Act also gives the right for unmarried straight couples to jointly adopt children and gives birth mothers the right to use an intermediary service to trace their children.

Felicity Collier, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering lauded the act as “the most radical overhaul of adoption law for 30 years

“”These changes will have a major impact on thousands of families. We know there were people eagerly awaiting December 30 because they are an unmarried couple who would like to adopt jointly.”

She added: “Opening up adoption to unmarried partners will encourage more people to consider adoption.

“This is very important at a time when too many children wait too long in temporary care waiting for an adoptive family or, in some cases, never have the chance of adoption at all.”