The Times

June 1 2000

Adoptive parents 'do not want boys'

BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
The Times

Two case studies

BOYS seeking adoptive families face spending their childhood in care because parents want to adopt infants or white girls under the age of 5. A study of 1,437 children in care for whom no adoptive parents could be found showed that despite a series of campaigns to promote the adoption of children from diverse backgrounds considerable biases remain.

The research compared the number of inquiries from potential adoptive families for different categories of children. It found that an average of 16 inquiries was made for each white girl aged 3 to 5. Most girls aged 6 to 10 could expect an average of five inquiries, but no inquiries were made for half of all boys aged 6 to 10 . On average only one or two inquiries was made for other boys.

Felicity Collier, chief executive of the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering and co-author of the study, said that the findings suggested a very negative public attitude towards boys. "I think that as a society we demonise boys and young men. People may think that boys who come from a troubled or disturbed background may well act out their past when they reach adolescence," she said.

Ms Collier said that the difficulty in finding families for boys often made it more likely that people's fears about them would materialise. "Children who wait for a long time for new families will find it much more difficult to settle down in their adoptive homes," she said.

Boys who were quickly adopted into stable families could benefit enormously in the long term, she said.

The research, which is based on children who appeared in the BAAF's monthly newsletter Be My Parent and on those on its national register, BAAFLink, also showed a shortage of families for older children, black and mixed-parentage children and large sibling groups.

Of the 943 children featured in Be My Parent because local authorities could not find adoptive families for them, 45 per cent were aged 6 and over and 59 per cent needed to be adopted with brothers and sisters. Over a quarter were from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared with about 6 per cent of the general population.

One in five of the children had been sexually abused, four in ten had disabilities, and a quarter had special educational needs. Children aged 6 to 10 attracted an average of three inquiries each from potential adopters, compared with nearly nine per child for the under-2s.

Of the 119 children referred to the BAAF's national register because no families could be found for them by their local authority, 82 per cent were in sibling groups, 71 per cent were aged 6 and over and nearly half were from minority ethnic groups.

Ms Collier said that it would be impossible to achieve the Government's aim of increasing the number of adoptions every year unless many more families were prepared to adopt boys, older children, large sibling groups and black and mixed parentage children.

The BAAF report follows recent research from the Social Services Inspectorate showing that 2,400 children in care in England were ready for adoption and awaiting a match with a family while 1,300 approved families were unmatched.

Ms Collier said it was clear that there was an urgent need for a compulsory national register for all children needing adoption, and all families approved for adoption. This would help join families from different parts of the country.

The Government is reviewing adoption laws and is expected to announce its findings at the end of June.

Brothers need to be together again

Brothers Daniel, Ryan and Jake have been seeking an adoptive family for nearly a year. At present the boys are living with separate foster families but now need to live together.

Daniel, 6, is active and sociable and likes playing outside. He can be very independent-minded but has made tremendous progress living with his foster carers. Ryan, 3, is chatty, inquisitive and affectionate. He loves playing with trains and cars and likes stories. He sustained serious burns to his hands and feet and will require surgery, but appears unconcerned by these injuries. Jake, 1, is happy, contented and placid and is meeting his developmental milestones. He should be able to form new attachments to his adopters without any problem.

Children fear being split up

Social workers fear that brother and sister Anthony and Bernice may have to be split up if they are unable to find an adoptive family for both of them because demand for girls is so much higher than for boys.

The two children, who are very close, are presently living together with a foster carer and have been waiting for an adoptive family for nearly a year.

Anthony, 6, is warm and thrives on adult attention. He attends mainstream

school, but will need educational support. Bernice, 5, is engaging and determined. She is making steady progress at her nursery. The children's mother is of white English parentage and their father of African-Caribbean (Guyanese) parentage.

Families interested in adopting these or other children should contact Be My Parent on 020-7593 2060/1/2

Copyright 2000, Times Newspapers Ltd.