It’s been revealed that Northern Ireland has the lowest success rate in the United Kingdom for same-sex couples adopting a child.
Despite a ban preventing same-sex couples from adopting a child in Northern Ireland being overturned in 2013, only 30 couples have applied to adopt a child, and out of those only two have been successful.
The statistics mean that same-sex couples wishing to adopt in Northern Ireland only have a one in fifteen chance of being successful, whereas elsewhere in the United Kingdom their chances stand at one in two.
The figures were revealed by BBC News, following a Freedom of Information request. The figures also showed that over the same time period, 481 same-sex couples from across the UK had applied to adopt a child with 235 of them being successful.
Speaking to BBC News, a Department of Health spokesperson said that one of the reasons for the low success rate could be the lengthy process in Northern Ireland, meaning that some couples may have already been approved, but they haven’t been given a child.
Mark Nesbitt and Ciaran Connolly told the BBC that they started the process four and a half years ago. “It was a learning process for both of us [and our social worker] because we were her first homosexual couple, so for her it was a learning curve and for us it was a learning curve as well,” said Mr Nesbitt.
“I have friends who adopted but they adopted from London… so we thought, this might not happen or it will be harder than for most straight couples.
“But we got talking to a lot of straight couples and they went through exactly the same as what we went through so we were treated in a way that was quite equal.
“It probably just took a lot longer because it’s new to everybody.”
EJ Havlin, Adoption UK’s Northern Ireland director said that she felt it was the way the law changed that was also creating some barriers. Same-sex adoption bans were overturned in parliaments throughout the rest of the UK, but in Northern Ireland the ban was ruled unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal.
“Whenever this legislation first came in the changes happened almost overnight, so unlike the ‘bedding in’ period which happened in the rest of the UK, the changes overnight meant that social services needed to get some support and training,” she said.
“This has been a real cultural change, so it takes time for that to be embedded.”
Ciaran Moynagh, a solicitor who has represented claimants fighting for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland also cited resistance from the government in changing the law before the court ruling as a possible reason for the low numbers of people applying.
“We have to remember the context this comes about it. It’s been five years but there’s been a longer legal story,” he said.
“We’ve had to fight for that right in courts. It hasn’t been a legislative change brought about in Northern Ireland and it hasn’t been an informed societal change, so that may have put a lot of people off.”