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East Lancashire couple help break down the barriers to adoption
2:00pm Saturday 24th November 2012 in News
MORE than 100 youngsters in Lancashire are currently in desperate need of a loving new home. High profile campaigns have recently been launched to get the message across that all kinds of people can adopt.
Reporter Chris Adams spoke to one couple helping to break down the barriers and stereotypes often associated with adoption.
Sean and Dan Firth-Powell have been parents for three-and-a-half years.
Their lives changed forever when they pledged to become dads to two young brothers.
The seven and eight-year-olds have florished since becoming part of a loving and supportive family.
And everyday the couple are grateful for the opportunity to help the youngsters grow up into ‘well rounded’ young men.
Sean and Dan are part of a growing number of same-sex adoptive parents. Recent national statistics show that six per cent of adopted children are now placed with gay couples.
That compares with 82 per cent that go to heterosexual couples, and 12 per cent taken on by single people.
Sean, 44, admits he never considered parenthood until Dan, 13 years his junior, brought up the idea five years ago.
And the decision was a massive one for the pair to consider.
At the time there were relatively few same sex couples becoming legal guardians for children, and Sean says there ‘can’t have been many others’ in Lancashire when they applied.
Sean, who works for a school catering business, said: “Adoption by gay couples has always been allowed but it was never really feasible in my generation. I never thought I’d have children.
“About four or five years ago the law changed to allow gay adoptive parents’ names to be on children’s birth certificates - that’s when Dan really showed an interest.
“It’s a complete life-changer, I forget what my old life was like. It’s never easy, but I wouldn’t change it.”
There has never been a law prohibiting gay men and women from adopting, but the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which came into force on December 30, 2005, set in stone, for the first time, the rights of civil partners, same-sex couples and unmarried couples In England and Wales to adopt.
Sean and Dan, who have been in a relationship for 12 years and civil partners for the last six, have had no shortage of support from local people and the boys’ school.
Sean, from Rossendale, said: “There are more positives than negatives. Sometimes when we visit the doctor or go to parents’ evenings, people are rather surprised. I suppose it’s still not considered normal.
“We never had any real difficulty with prejudice or discrimination. It was unusual when we did it, but the agency we used (Families First in Manchester) was really good.
“We have also been involved with Cambridge University research and it shows that kids adopted by gay couples turn out to be more rounded individuals.”
Lancashire County Council says it has 115 youngsters currently on its waiting list to be adopted.
County Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said the authority was keen to hear from all types of people who could offer a loving home.
She said: “There are a lot of people across the county who want to adopt and would make fantastic parents, but they're unsure about coming forward.
“We're not looking to pick someone based on their age, gender, race, or sexuality. What we're interested in are people's personal qualities and how they could use them to love a child unconditionally and support them as they grow up.”
Blackburn with Darwen Council has also launched a campaign for more adoptive parents to come forward.