I read an interesting article in The Times yesterday about adoption rates falling because of an increase in IVF and surrogacy. The article went onto reveal that the latest family court figures had shown a 36% decreased in adoption applications from heterosexual couples and whilst same-sex couple’s adoption rates have risen 14% they are such a small proportion it does not affect the overall decline.
So, I asked Cheryl Grace, a Senior Solicitor from our Leeds office and part of our specialist surrogacy and fertility law team to join us on the blog to look at the impact of surrogacy and IVF on adoption in the UK.
With IVF success rates increasing and surrogacy becoming less taboo after a number of high profile celebrities have publicly spoken about their surrogacy arrangements recently, it is no surprise that both options are becoming more attractive to potential parents. A natural consequence of this is a reduction in the number of adoptions taking place.
In my experience, for many people starting a family they would prefer that they have a genetic link to their child if possible. IVF and surrogacy offer this opportunity along with the opportunity for potential parents to start bonding with the baby during pregnancy, to share in the excitement of the pregnancy, and to care for the child straight from birth so that the child is familiar with them from the very start.
Potential parents, if given a choice, would usually welcome the opportunity to do all of those things so that they can start to build a strong and loving bond with their child in the same way that parents who have had children naturally do. It is therefore unfortunate that adoption does not offer potential parents those opportunities and perhaps this has helped to contribute to the reduction in the number of adoptions taking place.
Other factors which may deter potential parents from the adoption route include:
The vigorous process potential adopters have to undertake. Firstly, they have to be approved to adopt which involves their private lives being highly scrutinised, including speaking with their employers and analysing their medical records.
They then have to face a panel of professionals who effectively interview them to ascertain their suitability to adopt. If approved, potential adopters then have to go through the matching process to find a child who is suitable.
Once a potentially suitable child is found, their medical reports and other notes will be made available. This can make difficult and distressing reading and add to what is an incredibly gruelling and intrusive process.
There may be difficulties when the child is introduced to his/her new parents and moves in with them after typically only meeting on a few occasions and therefore not having spent sufficient time together to build up a bond.
Sometimes adopted children are difficult to parent particularly if they are older than toddlers – they have often been neglected or suffered physical and/or emotional harm meaning that their needs may be greater than those of other children, and their future development may have been affected
There is a risk that when the child becomes sufficiently mature, they will want to find their birth family. This is likely to be upsetting for the adopted parents who have raised the child as their own.
Nevertheless, I expect that adoption will always have a place in family law. For some people, it is their only means of having a family. For others, they are keen to give a child a chance for a happy life.