Importance of supporting new rainbow and solo parents

For new parents and their babies to have the best physical and psychological outcomes, all parents should be supported. There are a range of family units, and that includes single parent families and rainbow families (LGBTQ+). Although they may now legally have the same rights as families with two opposite sex parents, there are still many that experience roadblocks when it comes to having a baby.

How many rainbow and single parent families are there?

The number of same-sex couple parented families is steadily growing. They made up 0.7% of all couple households in 2011, and then increased to 0.9% in 2015. This rise may also be a reflection of couples being more willing to disclose their relationship status.

In 2008, the laws changed to remove discrimination towards same-sex couples and families so that they would receive benefits previously not accessible.

Single women are increasingly choosing to start families on their own through donor conception, surrogacy, and assisted reproductive technology. The legal barriers to this were only removed in 2010, and there are currently no national statistics on how many women are having babies solo (‘solo’ doesn’t mean they don’t have support around them; it just looks different to the stereotypical nuclear family).

What challenges do these families face?

The discrimination that they can face may be obvious. In some Australian hospitals, we still see ‘dads lounges’, and the resources given to expecting and new parents focused on fathers. To help support parents, particularly those experiencing mental health challenges during pregnancy and beyond, a huge shift in the the language used and available resources is needed.

Discrimination can come from polices. For instance, ‘Dad and partner pay’ is available for working dads or partners, including adopting parents and same-sex partners. It’s a small step in the right direction, but the Government could instead name it ‘partner pay’.

The discrimination these families face could be subtle. Some same sex couples or solo women report that fertility clinics can feel like a place designed exclusively for heterosexual couples. For example, all the paperwork that needs to be completed assumes this.

Importance of supporting rainbow and solo parents

Children do better socially, emotionally, and physically when their parent/s feel supported and a sense of belonging well before their children are born. If a parent feels alone and isolated, they are at risk of mental health challenges, which impacts their ability to parent how they would like to.

How to show your support of rainbow and solo parent families:

  • Use language that is respectful, inclusive, and non-judgemental. Speak up if you hear others express views that are discriminatory against diverse families.
  • Be sensitive when asking others about their families, and if you’re unsure, ask questions such as ‘what names or terms do you use for your family?’
  • Provide feedback to schools, services, or any community groups if you think they could be more inclusive. Suggest some books that are more inclusive of diverse families to your local library.
  • Talk about different kinds of families and parents with your children from early on.
  • If you’re a rainbow or solo parent, we would love to hear about your own unique experiences, so that we can use our platform to spread awareness of the challenges that you face. Equally, if you find that any language we use or information we share to not be inclusive, please let us know.

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