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A single's trend in adopting children

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:42 03 March 2010

GERI Haliwell has become the latest celebrity to suggest she would seriously consider adopting a child if she could not find a man to be its natural father.

GERI Haliwell has become the latest celebrity to suggest she would seriously consider adopting a child if she could not find a man to be its natural father.

Her statement comes on the back of several similar stories about woman-only parenting. Debbie Watson reports on the new approach to child-rearing.

WOMAN finds man, dates man, marries man, turns man into father of her child. Couple live happily ever after. The End.

Once upon a time that simplistic agenda wasn't all that far from the traditional norm.

Couples did date, did marry, did have babies together, and did – in the main – live in that state of marital bliss for ever after.

And yet, these days things are vastly different.

Marriages in this day and age are just as likely to fail as they are to succeed and very often couples will not so much as take that risk in the first place – they will live together in a cohabitation arrangement instead.

When it comes to parenting the trends are beginning to alter too.

Marvels of science have made it increasingly plausible for couples to become parents where nature has seemingly failed them. And beyond that, more single adults and same-sex couples are also contemplating the

pleasures of child-rearing.

One of the newest trends – brought to light by the number of celebrities taking this option – is to adopt a child as a single adult.

Calista Flockhart (of Ally McBeal fame) caused great controversy when she opted for this method early last year.

The star claimed that she was awestruck by her newborn son and that, although she would like to give birth one day, she felt she had not yet found the right man to naturally father her child.

Calista's step has since been followed by Tomb Raider actress Angeline Jolie and now it seems as if Geri Halliwell might not be all that far behind.

Professionals working in the adoption service claim there is no barrier to such single women being successful in finding and raising a child.

Here in Suffolk the process is just as open to a one-parent potential applicant as it is to a couple – dependent on circumstance.

"The adoption and fostering process is very much one that runs on strict assessment and which draws

conclusions based on the merits of each individual case," commented Fiona Wilmott, spokeswoman for adoption and fostering in Suffolk.

"We would certainly not discriminate against a single woman – or, for that matter, a single man."

Fiona and her team have witnessed the application and adoption process by people from all walks of life.

Despite the traditional family set-up expectation, these include single women, single men and same-sex couples.

"It doesn't matter what gender you are, whether you are single, part of a couple, homosexual or heterosexual.

"It matters that we find the person who is going to be able to provide a good home and good parenting to a child in need.

"Clearly if you had a prospective single parent who worked full-time, was on a low wage, didn't have access to childcare and couldn't provide essential facilities – then of course questions would be asked about their suitability and about whether they realistically could be a good adoptive parent."

Adopting and fostering are both very tightly controlled processes that are governed by a number of strategic checks to ensure that the right person is always found.

It is a system that dictates careful and thorough inspection because the stakes – where vulnerable children are concerned – is simply too high to be taking avoidable risks.

"When a potential parent first applies to us we send them information and then from the moment of receiving that first request back we go out of our way to ensure they understand the scale of our investigation," said Fiona.

"We hold a session along with other applicants and make sure that they understand how thorough we will have to be in order to ensure that we're getting the right people.

"We run health checks, criminal checks, financial checks – and we also see them in their home environment.

"We cannot cut corners at any point and it's best that the applicant knows the scale of that process from the outset."

Like so many adoption and fostering services across the country, Suffolk is finding itself caught in the age-old problem: too many children and not enough willing and suitable parents.

It means children are then having to be increasingly housed outside the county in which they grew up.

For this reason, it's little wonder that single parents – who pass the test of having the time, the health and the money to accommodate for their new child – are still being welcomed by the professionals with open arms.

"It's very difficult to constantly find the parents we need," said Fiona. "Getting people to take on babies is never a problem, but the older the child is, the harder it seems to be.

"That's why we need people to understand our philosophy. We don't care what gender or relationship-status they have. That's not an issue for us so long as their will provide a safe and secure parental home.

"There's no reason why a single parent could not provide as good a home as a couple."

Weblink

www.suffolkadoption.com

n For more information about adopting, call 0800 389 9417

n For more information about fostering, call 0800 328 2148

ADOPTION (Information from www.suffolkadoption.com)

Adoption means providing a permanent, stable home to a baby, child or young person – giving them the chance to fulfil that potential.

Adoption is the legal process by which parental responsibility for a child or young person is vested in a new parent or parents. It is a permanent, lifelong commitment to that child. An adoption order removes parental responsibility from anyone previously exercising it, including the child's birth parents.

People from all sections of the community and from as wide a variety of backgrounds as possible are wanted as adoptive parents:

n Married people

n Couples living together (although only one partner can legally adopt)

n Single people

n Same sex partnerships

n Members of diverse ethnic, cultural and religious groups

Who will you adopt?

n Children over the age of one year

n Family groups of two or more children

n Children of all ages with some level of learning or physical disability

n Children with emotional or behavioural difficulties linked to their early childhood experiences

FOSTERING

Fostering is providing family care for children and young people who, for various reasons cannot live with their own families.

A Foster Carer looks after a child in the carer's own home. However, the child's own parents usually maintain contact with him or her and they have some responsibilities towards the child.

Fostering involves making positive changes in a child's life.

Foster Carers become involved in making plans for the child.

Foster Carers work together with the child's parents and the Social Care department.

There are quite simply not enough Foster Carers in Suffolk. This means that children are being fostered outside the county, away from their birth families. As a result it becomes harder to help families get back together.

If it is at all possible, we want to put families back together again. To do this, we need to provide local foster carers for the children looked after by Suffolk County Council.

By becoming a Foster Carer for Suffolk County Council you could be helping to make a positive difference in the lives of a local child and their family.

FACTS

At present Suffolk has more than 50 children waiting for homes. These are aged between five and 13.

In 1993 a Mori poll gave the public the scenario that a lesbian couple had adopted a child and that one partner then died. (Only one partner is allowed to be registered as the child's parent).

It asked whether the public felt the other partner should then be allowed to take over the adoption – 90 per cent said 'no'.

The same question was raised in a poll last year and this time 59 per cent said that the other partner should be allowed to take over the adoption. The poll reflects that traditional attitudes have dramatically changed.

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