An adoption expert has criticised the treatment of lesbian and gay people who want to foster children or become adoptive parents.

Julie Cooke, a trainer and consultant for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, has claimed that adoption register statistics from 2004-7 show only four children were placed with gay or lesbian carers.

She told Community Care Live that there is an unspoken policy of placing disabled children and children with learning disabilities with gay and lesbian carers, who are seen as being at the bottom of the list of prospective parents.

Ms Cooke accused social workers of conservative attitudes.

“Social workers think in terms of two heterosexual parents with a nice house and garden,” she told delegates at a session on gay and lesbian carers.

The Adoption and Children Act, which came into force in December 2005, gave gay couples and unmarried straight couples the right to jointly adopt children.

In January the European Court of Human Rights ruled that refusing gay couples the right to adopt a child because of their sexual orientation is discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which came into force last year, make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods or services. The law applies to adoption agencies.

Despite protests Roman Catholic adoption agencies will be required to comply with the law by the end of this year or close down.