Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Sunday Times - "Gay adoption splits opinion" by Giz Watson & John Barich

State MP Giz Watson and John Barich, national vice-president of the Australian Family Association, put their cases on the issue of allowing gay couples to adopt

GIZ WATSON, the case for . . .

TWO men have exercised their rights under WA law to be considered as prospective parents of a child who needs a new family, a child who has been relinquished for adoption.
Their chances of becoming parents in this way are slight. There are already more than 100 other couples on the waiting list; in 2003/04 only three children born in WA were placed in so-called "stranger adoption".

Other countries offering children for adoption prevent children from going to same-sex couples; and the relinquishing mother can (quite rightly) limit or proscribe who the child goes to (for example, she can say they have to be Catholics or Caucasian).

Under WA law, in the case of stranger adoption, the interest of the child always comes first and the decisions of the relinquishing parent and the adoption service are final. Neither a heterosexual nor gay couple discriminated against for good reason in this process can appeal. These decisions cannot be appealed under the Equal Opportunity Act.

So why all the excitement? What exactly is behind this debate?

Are lesbian and gay parents less capable? The scientific evidence is to the contrary and more than 50 scientific studies have shown this.

The Australian Psychological Society, representing more than 15,000 psychologists, says that gays and lesbians parent no differently from heterosexuals.

Jenny Milbank, of Sydney University, reviewed the last 30 years of research on lesbian and gay families. She concluded that it was family processes, not family structures, that determined children's welfare. Parenting skills and the management of stress and conflict determined dysfunction in children, and these were completely unrelated to gender or family structure.

Are children in gay families in any danger? Statistics from Australia and other countries show that children are more likely to suffer neglect or abuse in heterosexual families.

The facts are that more than 90 per cent of the perpetrators of child abuse are men who identify as heterosexual – overwhelmingly their victims are female, the majority are related or known to their victim, and most offences occur inside the hallowed family home. Of course, the vast majority of heterosexual families provide safe and loving homes for children, and gay families do so equally.

Will children in gay families be teased or bullied at school? Children may be teased for having big ears or a bald father, or for being thin.

Parents and schools are fully aware of bullying issues and employ intelligent approaches to conflict resolution. Teasing is a behaviour-management issue, not a "gay-parent" issue.

One of the key tools to address teasing is promoting understanding and tolerance.

So is it really a "rights of the child" issue that excites all the fuss? Opponents of gay adoption remain adamant that a gay-family structure is damaging – but to whom? Why does the institution of the heterosexual family require such vehement defence?

Is it really true that a child's best interests are necessarily served by having a mother and a father? An optimal home environment for a child provides both nurturing and resourcing. These roles are not gender specific.

So, finally, what arguments are left other than a bald, unsubstantiated assertion that heterosexual families are simply best for children? Is the "threat" of gay adoption not really about the "best interests of the child", but rather its perceived challenge to a narrow, imagined notion of an ideal family?

Since time immemorial the true, rather than imagined, reality is that children have been raised in a variety of settings. One person or many may provide the nurturing and resourcing roles: family members, friends and teachers all contribute. Opponents of gay adoption would do well to take a longer and wider view of child-raising in the world, and, frankly, get over it.

JOHN BARICH, the case against . . .

THE 1994 Adoption Act declares that the "paramount considerations to be taken into account in the administration" of that Act are "the welfare and best interests of a child who is an adoptee or a prospective adoptee; the principle that adoption is a service for a child who is an adoptee or a prospective adoptee; and the adoption of a child should occur only in circumstances where there is no other appropriate alternative for the child".

Nothing in these considerations refers to any alleged "right" of couples, of any kind, to adopt.

Therefore, the question of whether a homosexual couple should be treated equally to a married couple does not arise, except in the context of asking what is in the best interest of the child.

The onus is on those advocating adoption by homosexual couples to establish that the best interest of a child can ever be served by intentionally depriving the child of a father or a mother.

This is the necessary consequence of placing a child for adoption with a male homosexual couple or a lesbian couple.

Advocates of adoption by homosexual couples frequently claim about 50 studies have shown no difference in outcome between children raised by married or homosexual couples.

Any social-science study depends for its validity on following rigorous statistical and research procedures.

Dr Robert Lerner and Dr Althea Nagai – experts in quantitative analysis – after dissecting each of 49 of such studies, found at least one fatal research flaw in each.

These studies are therefore no basis for good science or public policy.

On the other hand, there is a large and reliable body of evidence that there are gender-linked differences in parenting skills.

Men and women add different strengths to their children's development.

Fathers and mothers interact differently with their infant children.

Fathers tend to play with their children more physically, while mothers smile and talk more to them.

Fathers tend to encourage curiosity and problem solving and are less solicitous about failure.

Mothers provide more expressive and nurturing child-rearing.

What a perverse idea of fairness is it to decide that a little boy or girl shall never be able to call anyone "Mummy" because the next couple in the adoption queue is a pair of male homosexuals?

Adoption creates a legal, lifelong bond between a child and the new parents.

It provides a vital service to those children whose natural parents freely decide that they are unable or unwilling to care for and raise them.

The state has a grave obligation to ensure that it acts only in the best interests of these children and ignores the self-serving interests of any adults demanding a "right to adopt".

Millennia of human experience, common sense and weighty research support the presumption that the best interest of the child is served by entrusting him or her to a mother and father in a stable marriage.

The advocates of adoption by homosexual couples cannot meet the burden of proof required to rebut this presumption.

The Australian Family Association welcomes the commitment of the Liberal Party to repeal the unjust provision of the Act that permits adoption by homosexual couples.

This provision was introduced by the Gallop Government – not after any comprehensive review of the needs of children, but on demands for equality from a small, influential group of adults.

We urge the Gallop Government to likewise consider repealing this provision.

[Link: Original Article]

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