Children miss out on adoption because of ‘myths and legends’

Issue date: 01/11/2010

New UK-wide research released today reveals alarming public misconceptions around adoption, on issues including obesity, smoking and gay and lesbian adoption. The myths and legends around adoption could cause children to miss out on permanent families, warns a national charity.

The ICM Research was commissioned by the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF), as part of National Adoption Week (1st – 7th November 2010). The charity is concerned that people may be needlessly disqualifying themselves from adoption simply because they don’t have the full facts. 

Key research findings include:

  • 32% believed anyone over 40 was ruled out of adoption
  • 29% thought single men couldn’t adopt
  • Over 1 in 10 (11%) said gay/lesbian people couldn’t adopt
  • Over a third (36%) thought you couldn’t adopt if you smoke
  • 29% thought being obese excluded you from adoption


In fact health issues such as smoking and obesity do not rule people out of adopting although any implications will be considered further during an assessment..


Some people knew that having some types of criminal convictions, particularly against children, would exclude you. However many others thought that there was a blanket ban on anyone with a criminal record, which is not necessarily true as this would depend on various factors such as the type of offence and how recent it was. Other reasons people thought you would be prevented from adopting included, not being able to swim, reading a tabloid newspaper and being religious. None of these are true.

As the charity celebrates its 30th anniversary, it was concerned to find that public perceptions about the adoption system were over 30 years out of date. 39% thought that the main reason children were adopted was because they had been ‘given up’ by their birth family. Several others thought most children waiting for adoption were ‘orphans’. While this used to be the case many years ago, nowadays the most common reason for children needing adoption is because they have been removed from their birth families because of abuse and neglect.

In addition, nearly a third (29%) held the view that adoption is primarily a service for infertile couples, or existing parents who want to add to their families. Although this may be the reason that people come forward to adopt, the emphasis of adoption changed many years ago to become a service specifically for meeting the needs of children.

David Holmes, Chief Executive of BAAF, said: “It is worrying how many myths have come to dominate in adoption. It concerns us that people may disqualify themselves needlessly, which could mean a child misses out on a family.

“The key message is anyone over 21 can apply to adopt. However there is no right to adopt and everyone whose application is taken forward will be subject to a very thorough assessment. Every case is treated individually.

“The good news is that 94% of people who make it to an adoption panel get approved. So we strongly urge anyone interested in adoption to make an enquiry. Don’t rule yourself out without at least finding out the facts.”

To help spread the word, BAAF is releasing a nationwide team of Adoption Champions into local communities during National Adoption Week. These Champions all have some kind of link to adoption. They will use their direct experience to encourage others to think about whether adoption could be right for them.

For more information about the Adoption Champions scheme, or any other part of National Adoption Week, visit