Jim Richards, Director of the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) has expressed a number of objections to proposed changes in the law which would make it easier for gay or unmarried couples to adopt. Briefing peers in the House of Lords on the Adoption and Children Bill, he said: "There are many and growing concerns about the proposals to allow unmarried couples to adopt jointly but one that has to date not yet been mentioned is what surname a child will be given". He pointed out that: "Co-habitees will each have a different surname and whichever of the two names is chosen will have the effect of excluding one or other of the two adopters. This is not a trivial matter, for a child's sense of identity and belonging and therefore security, stem in part from the totality of what a shared family name means". Jim Richards was also highly critical of the social work profession's claim that, by means of rigorous assessment, they will be able to predict whether co-habitations will last. "This betrays a worrying arrogance because we know how fragile co-habitations are, partly because they have rejected the ties of the marriage commitment, but what makes matters even worse is that over half* of all co-habitations break down within five years of the birth of a child. Breakdown is even more likely to occur with all the extra stresses that take place in adoption, particularly if the child has been in care for some years". He also addressed the issue of same sex couples being able to adopt if the proposed changes became law. "As the Bill now stands, following the amendments in the Commons, it would be possible not just for same sex couples to adopt but also transsexuals. However, two spinster sisters would not be able to adopt the children of, for instance, their brother, if he and his wife died in a car crash", he said. He ended by reminding peers that "Homosexual partnerships disrupt at an even higher rate than heterosexual ones. The effect of these proposals is that children adopted into unmarried unions are likely to face yet more disruptions in their already turbulent lives". * The Office for National Statistics in "Childbearing Outside Marriage in Western Europe. Population Trends, 98, Winter 1999" shows that. after five years following birth: 8% of couples who were married had split up. 25% of couples who were co-habiting but later married had split up. 52% of couples who were co-habiting and never married had split up.
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