Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Amelia Hill, for The Guardian on Monday 31st January 2011 00.00 UTC

Gay and lesbian couples make worse parents than heterosexuals, according to almost one third of the adults questioned for a new Barnardo’s campaign.

The belief is so prevalent, said Anne Marie Carrie, the charity’s new chief executive, that it is discouraging significant numbers of people from considering adoption at a time when adoptions are at an historic low.

“Our poll not only highlights a disturbing and prevalent belief system but also a deepening concern that children in the care system are continuing to lose out on potential parents,” she said.

Carrie said the idea that gay parents are second best “must be challenged”. “To suggest that a same sex couple is not as able to raise a child as a heterosexual couple is at once absurd and unsubstantiated,” she added. “To continue to discourage potential adopters simply because of their sexual orientation is severely diminishing the chances of securing loving, stable homes for the children who are waiting.”

Research collected by the charity shows that only 3.75% – or 120 out of 3,200- children adopted in England in 2010 were adopted by same-sex couples: a figure that was evenly split between couples who were and were not in a civil partnership.

There are more than 64,000 children in the care system in England: one quarter of whom will never find a family.

Adoption UK’s chief executive, Jonathan Pearce, said there was a “certain irony” in gay and lesbian couples being discriminated against when seeking to adopt children.

“After all, children from care are placed for adoption in the majority of cases because they have been abused and neglected in their birth families, the overwhelming majority of which would have been heterosexual parents,” he said. “We don’t then conclude that all heterosexual parents are bad parents.”

Pearce said that his charity’s own recent survey of adopters’ experience of being recruited and assessed, revealed that “at least” one-third of couples reported experiencing “prejudice and discrimination, whether in relation to their race or ethnicity, sexuality, marital status or financial situation”.

“A person’s ability to parent is not based upon any of these factors,” he said. “At a time when we are trying to recruit and support many more adopters to be parents for the 4,000 children that we know need adopting from care, it is a gross dereliction of duty that we cannot stamp out these misplaced prejudices. How will we explain this in the future to those who spend their childhood in care, but could have benefited from an adoptive family?”

The right of gay couples to adopt was introduced in 2002 by then prime minister, Tony Blair, in a drive to increase the number of adoptions from care by 50%.

But religious leaders claim that the number of adoptions has dropped by 30% since Labour’s sexual orientation regulations were bought into law in 2007, thanks to the bar it imposed on adoptions through Christian agencies that do not approve of gay rights.

Ten out of 11 Catholic agencies said the law had forced them to stop finding homes for children because they refuse to deal with gay couples.

The only remaining Catholic agency fighting the legislation, Leeds-based Catholic Care, is still engaged in a high court battle.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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