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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 13:45 GMT
Adoption rights 'misunderstood'
Richard Stuart and sons
Richard Stuart decided to adopt as a single man
Children are missing out on permanent new families because of misconceptions about who can adopt, a survey suggests.

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) said one in five adults had considered adoption yet the numbers actually doing it were falling.

Its poll revealed a third of the 2,000 adults surveyed thought people over 40 could not adopt and about a quarter thought single men were also banned.

The BAAF said it was concerned people still believed bans were in place.

BAAF chief executive David Holmes said he was very worried about the "alarming misconceptions" uncovered by the survey.

I think there's a growing shift in society that's much more accepting to single families
David Holmes, British Association for Adoption and Fostering

"It is tragic for children waiting to be adopted if potential parents are excluding themselves before they have even looked into it," he said.

The YouGov poll conducted last month also found there were further misconceptions with 14% of those surveyed believing single women could not adopt and a quarter believing the same was true of the unemployed.

Less than one-third (29%) knew abuse or neglect were the most common reasons for children in the UK to be adopted.

More than four in 10 thought it was because birth parents had given up their child for adoption, which was much more common in the past than now.

Loving families

This year, some 3,300 children have been adopted in England - the lowest number in the last five years, according to BAAF's figures.

Mr Holmes said: "Without suitable adopters many children will continue to wait in care for far too long and some will never find a permanent and loving family of their own - something every child deserves.

"I think there's a growing shift in society that's much more accepting to single families, also a realisation that not everyone is in a relationship where they can have their own children."

Among that latter group was Richard Stuart, now a single father of two adopted boys.

"I got to a stage in my life when I started to wonder a) would I ever get married and therefore b) would I ever have a family," he told BBC News.

"Lots of people have prejudices against single men. They think why would this man want to become a parent? He could be dodgy but a lot of work is done to make sure the agency feels comfortable with you."

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