(This article has been written to help inform an audience in Hungary as well as those interested in the topic in the UK. It is the intension of the author to have the text translated into Hungarian in the coming weeks for publication in that country)
In Hungary over recent months, there has been a great deal of interest in same-sex couples starting their own families. This has become highly contentious and politicised, as is illustrated by the shredding of a children’s book depicting same-sex parenting by the deputy leader of the Our Homeland party and with the recent passing of laws preventing same-sex couples from adopting.
The objections to same-sex couples having children are varied; they range from a fear that children will be subjected to sexual abuse to the idea that this heralds the end of so-called ‘traditional’ notions of what constitutes a family.
Many in Hungary are very happy for same-sex couples to start a family but others are deeply fearful. Although this is a relatively new idea in Hungary, same-sex couples have been adopting and fostering children here in England since December 2005, with 16 per cent of all English adoptions now made by same-sex couples.
To those who are fearful, I want to share something of what we have learnt in England over the past fifteen years.
The first thing to say is that there is no evidence that same-sex couples are any more likely to abuse children than couples who are heterosexual. Indeed, there is even evidence to suggest that outcomes for children with same-sex parents are better. It is thought that this is because fewer same-sex couples ‘rush’ into parenting.
There is also no evidence to support the idea that children growing up with same-sex parents are any more likely to have same-sex attraction themselves. In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that you cannot determine anyone else’s sexual orientation. In short, you cannot turn someone gay. If this were the case, children raised in heterosexual families would all be straight.
The welfare of the child is paramount. Couples wishing to adopt or foster children should be the subject of rigorous, unhurried and intensive assessment to ensure that they are suitable. When a child joins a family, we must have absolute confidence that perspective parents are able to provide a safe, stable and loving home. This is especially necessary because many of the children who come to adoption and fostering have had difficult and traumatic experiences within their biological families. Here in England, there are established protocols for robustly assessing perspective adoptive and fostering parents. These protocols exist for single people, heterosexual couples and same-sex couples alike.
Those arguing for same-sex adoption and fostering are not seeking a dilution of these essential measures; they are simply wanting to see them applied equally.
What England has learnt in the past fifteen years is that children can and do thrive within same-sex families. What we have learnt is that more ‘traditional’ families haven’t collapsed since 2005, and we have learnt that most of the negatives associated with same-sex parenting have been the result of those who perpetrate homophobic hate against these families.
If you are single, a heterosexual couple or a same-sex couple, and if you are able to provide children with a safe, stable and loving family, you MUST be allowed the opportunity to do so on an equal and non-discriminatory basis. Preventing this will only serve to deny children the chance of a family.
Keith Bishop is a Youth Worker, Foster Dad and Senior Lecturer in Working With Children, Young People and Families at Newman University in Birmingham. He tweets at https://twitter.com/YouthWorkerBish