As the Adoption and Children Bill leaves its Committee Stage for a full Commons Debate and then further discussion in the Lords, attention is focussing on who should be eligible to adopt. Jim Richards, Director of the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) is one of the few leaders of adoption agencies openly opposing moves from back-bench MPs which, if successful, will allow for the first time unmarried couples, either heterosexual or same sex, to adopt jointly. Jim Richards said: "It is often argued that if we put children first, then as long as they are loved it does not matter in what family type they are placed. I believe it does, both on moral and effectiveness grounds. A child needing to be adopted is more likely to receive the stability and security from a married, as opposed to an unmarried couple. This is clear from the available research which shows that co-habitation has a far higher breakdown rate than marriage, with one study showing that 70% of those children born to married parents will stay with them throughout their childhood in contrast to only 36% of those born to those who co-habit". Jim Richards continued "If this institution is undermined, as it would be if co-habitees are able to adopt, it would make matters worse for many more children, possibly leading to a cycle of more numerous family breakdowns and consequently higher numbers of children going into care, who in their turn may well then need to be adopted. Marriage is based on the public promise of mutual obligation between husband and wife, with the aim of life-long commitment to each other and of love and care to any children. Whereas co-habitation, even if there is a legal definition, is unlikely to involve such a promise." Finally he stated: "Marriage gives structure and a framework for decision making, whereas in co-habitation rules have to be created in a situation where there are no agreed societal norms. This lack of socially approved group rules is a recipe for ambiguity and ambivalence. Marriage also provides children with clear kinship links with the two families of the husband and wife. It is clear who are grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Co-habitation, in contrast, can lead to a fragile one-generational arrangement."
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