The Minister of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, writes for PinkNews to mark LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week.
I have seen first-hand the benefits of adoption and fostering, growing up with scores of fostered brothers and sisters, and two adopted brothers.
And I know that what matters most is a person’s ability to love and care for children in need over everything else, not their sexual orientation.
This week, LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, is a time to celebrate the hundreds of children each year who are finding their caring, forever home with LGBT parents.
I’m delighted that, since 2010, the number of adoptions by LGBT couples has risen almost four-fold, to 450 last year – one in 12 of all adoptions over those twelve months were by same-sex parents.
But I also know there’s more we can do– too many children are still waiting too long for the right home.
The first step to finding these children the loving families they deserve is bringing more adopters on board – from a wide variety of backgrounds.
That’s why we’re investing almost a million pounds in recruiting loving adoptive parents from the LGBT community, including £400,000 to launch the first adoption service exclusively for LGBT people and £400,000 to Barnardo’s to recruit adopters for siblings, focusing on prospective LGBT parents.
The adoption journey isn’t always a simple one – I know from my own experience that some children adopted from care have been through terrible ordeals which don’t simply disappear once they have settled with their new families.
That’s why it’s vital that families get the support they need to love and care for these children, and the Adoption Support Fund is there to provide just that for new adoptive parents. Currently worth £19 million, we are increasing the fund every year for the next four years, giving more and more adoptive parents that extra help they need and deserve.
But we mustn’t overlook the other, hugely important side to this week – foster care.
Foster carers are in an unrivalled position to build strong, loving and stable relationships that can endure into adulthood, supporting children to overcome any number of challenges they may have faced before going into care.
We’re keen to broaden the range of foster carers – and though recruitment is improving nationally, we want to go further so that families from a variety of backgrounds are stepping up to support our most vulnerable children.
We have sped up the foster carer approval process and, because no young person stops needing a parent just because they have turned 18, we have also invested £44million so that children can stay with their foster parents until age 21 – and more young people than ever before are now doing this.
At the heart of all of this work are the young people we’re trying to help – finding the best possible home for vulnerable children, many of whom have faced enormous challenges in their lives already.
And for all the Government’s work, it is the dedication and love of foster and adoptive parents that truly gives these children a brighter future.
For the last five years, the UK has been one of the nations leading the way in Europe for LGBT rights.
But work hasn’t stopped – our Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who is also Minister for Women and Equalities, continues to tackle the prejudices of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, by pledging a further £1 million, on top of the £2million already committed, to stamp out homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools.
And this week, as we celebrate LGBT adoption and fostering,
I appeal to all who believe they have what it takes to give a young person a loving and caring home to take the first steps towards parenthood, and contact their local authority or First4Adoption – the government’s dedicated information service for people interested in adopting.
Excellent parents come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds – what matters is giving children the start they deserve.
Edward Timpson is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Crewe and Nantwich, and Minister of State for Children and Families in the Department for Education.