One of the saddest stories to emerge during the past week has been that of the young brother and sister – five and four years old respectively – who are being torn away from their grandparents and handed over for adoption by a gay couple. The story was unearthed by the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.
In case you missed the story, the bald facts are these. This little boy and little girl have a mother who is a heroin addict, although she is trying to wean herself off the drug with methadone. Her parents are currently caring for the child. Their identity has to be kept anonymous but her father is a farm worker in his 50s and her mother is 46. Edinburgh social services are determined that this child should be adopted by a gay couple. When the grandparents spoke out in outrage, their social worker is alleged to have told them that they will never be allowed to see her grandchildren again.
There are several points that seemed to me to be worth making. The first is that it is right that children from grossly dysfunctional homes should be taken away for adoption. The first port of call, however, should be the extended family. If, as appears to be the case here, there are grandparents willing to take the child on then, prima facie, that is whether children should go.
Unbelievably, Edinburgh social workers said that the grandparents were too old. So a granny of 46 is too old? Let me tell Edinburgh about a widowed grandmother in her 70s, in my constituency, who took charge of her grandson when her daughter succumbed to mental illness and raised him successfully to adulthood, continuing to work long past the normal retirement age in order to do so. Last time I saw him he was a delightful and happy sixteen year old.
The next point is that one doesn’t have to be a homophobe to believe that the interests of the children should come first. A child needs a mother. There is a presumption in British law, where the divorce of natural parents takes place, in favour of the mother. Whatever the personal merits of these two men may be, neither of them can be a mother to this little boy and little girl. Surely a loving granny can?
Then there is the issue of bullying. Secrecy in adoption cases is there to protect the children – not the Council. Perhaps Edinburgh felt they could bully a farm worker and his wife with impunity. Full marks to the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail for exposing this shabby business!
The good news is that a wealthy businessman is helping fund a legal challenge organised by the Catholic Church in Scotland. I should declare an interest; I am a Roman Catholic as well as co-chairman of the all-party adoption group. Nevertheless I hope and believe that the majority of people in this country, whatever their religious views, will support this legal challenge to very sad decision by Edinburgh Council.