Asian gay couples: adoption is still a challenge
"I think we’ve come a long way and it was a difficult journey.. My mum resigned herself to the fact that she would never have [grand] kids, and now suddenly she has two." The words of Faisal*, an openly gay man from India, who now lives in the UK. Three years ago, he jointly adopted two children with his partner Jacques*, who is French. The children are blood siblings and from a mixed British-Indian cultural background.
Faisal and Jacques feel it is important their children grow up learning about their heritage "We go to India once a year," said Faisal. "The boys do get a lot of exposure to Indian culture, and to French [culture] as well."
This couple have been lucky. They only had to wait six months to be matched with their children, and as gay adoptive parents, they have been accepted by their families and their wider community in north London. However, the experience for some gay parents, and in particular some gay Asian parents, is not always so straightforward.
In 2005, gay couples in England and Wales became legally entitled to adopt jointly for the first time, giving them the same rights as heterosexual couples, reports the BBC.
However, BBC Asian Network has been told it is sometimes harder for gay Asians because of sensitivity over religion and culture.
Peter McGraith is a gay adoptive parent who also provides training and consultancy to adoption and fostering agencies, to ensure a level playing field for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) applicants.
"There are assumptions made about (people) all the time. One of those assumptions is that it is more difficult to be a happy, out gay person within your community if you’re Asian," he said.
Just because you are gay it doesn’t mean to say you cannot also be Muslim and identify with your background ”
End Quote Peter McGraith LGBT Advisor to adoption and fostering agencies
From things that social workers have told me, that is seen as a bit of a block to matching couples with children from ethnic minorities, particularly if there is a religious element too."
One gay couple, who wanted to remain anonymous because they are still going through the adoption process, spoke about an initial match with a Sikh child, which fell through. They believe it was because one of them is Hindu.
They are now waiting to hear about further matches.
What should make it easier is a change to adoption guidelines in England, announced earlier this year, which states that as long as prospective adopters show they are able to care for the child, then race should not be a factor.
"Just because you are gay it doesn’t mean to say you cannot also be Muslim and identify with your background and help a child from that background to deal with his or her identity needs," said Mr McGraith.
"I think those difficulties mean that some children might not be getting matched with gay men and lesbians because they’re not seen as ‘real Muslims, or real Sikh people, or real Pakistanis’, whatever it might be."
According to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering , just 4% of parents who adopted last year were gay. Of all children adopted last year, 14% were Black, Asian or mixed race.
Asian, black and mixed race children wait three times longer to be adopted
Satwinder Sandhu is the director of Adoption services for Parents and Children Together, or PACT. The organisation is constantly trying to recruit more LGBT parents.
"I think for lesbian and gay applicants it’s always going to be more difficult, because they will still encounter a level of prejudice," he said.
Mr Sandhu said that the most important aspect of adoption was the welfare of the child.
"I do believe that black children should be placed with black families, and black comes as a whole range of diversity for me," he continued.
"But where that isn’t possible, I think it is really important that children are secured in permanent homes and removed from care."
Faisal said that coming from India, he had seen many children without loving families, and when he and his partner wanted to start a family of their own, adoption seemed the natural choice.
"I know that there are so many children out there in the world who need parents, and here we were looking to have kids that needed parents," he said.
Faisal and Jacques are now hoping to extend their family by adopting a baby girl. They say their two boys are very excited about meeting their new sister.
* Names have been changed in order to protect the identity of children