What Is An Alternative Family?

In a diverse world such as ours, the use of alternative can be confusing. So ahead of Alternative Families Week 2016, what is an alternative family?

What is an alternative family?

In a diverse world such as ours, the use of alternative can be confusing. So ahead of Alternative Families Week 2016, what is an alternative family?

An alternative family could be one created through fostering & adoption; or one where a surrogate has supported the progress. Co-Parenting is a new concept of alternative families and there is also a growing trend of single parenting by choice as more independent people decide to start their family alone. Of course, the obvious alternative family to many when they think of alternative is a family with LGBT parents.

This is just the alternative families that are created that way from the outset, we are a complex world and there are also alternative families that evolve within the family - such as co-parenting following a divorce, families raised by other family members such as grandparents and single parents where the second parent is no longer around for any number of reasons.

Alternative families come in many shapes and sizes. Each is to be celebrated as at the end of the day it is the formation of a loving family unit. Each journey is unique.

For those who are new to the concept of an alternative family, we have given a run down of 5 alternative methods of reaching your future family. For more information about all of these, the Alternative Parenting Show takes place in London on Saturday 24 September where over 30 exhibitors and over 10 seminars are taking place to ensure that you are able to fully understand your options to make the best choice in how to create your future family. You can find out more about the show and how to get your free ticket at www.alternativeparenting.co.uk

Fostering & Adoption

Whether it's overnight or for a number of years, foster carers can provide the support, stability and care in a safe, loving environment every child needs. Fostering is often a route to adoption.

Adoption is for those children who are unable to live with their birth parents and will not be able to return to them. Adoption is a legal process. It enables the child to have the legal status of a birth child within their adoptive family.


Surrogacy is when a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for a couple or individual who want to have a child. Some women who have had a long struggle with IVF turn to surrogacy. It is also a growing trend with gay men who wish to have a biological child. Surrogacy in the UK is legal, however currently many choose to go abroad as the laws can be stronger.


Co-Parenting describes a parenting situation where the parents are not in a marriage, cohabitation or romantic relationship with one another. Co-Parenting within the LGBT community is a growing trend.

A good thing about co-parenting partnerships is the lack of assumed roles. Everything is customised and negotiated for agreement according to the wishes and good sense of the people involved. Agreeing on a lifestyle standard and responsibility for providing that standard is key.

Single Parent by Choice

As more and more women are choosing their career, and as being a single parent has less stigma attached to it; we are seeing a large increase in becoming single parents by choice.

Single parents themselves come in all shapes and sizes and there has been an increase in younger women choosing to freeze their eggs to preserve their fertility to later in life as they concentrate on their careers. Whether that future family is as a single parent, or a more nuclear format, it is clear that women are now more aware of their fertility and making a conscious choice.

LGBT Parents

With the increase in rights of LGBT people in the UK, the creation of family units within this community has risen steeply. There are many options available, which can often leave the individual or couple feeling overwhelmed and confused. With often no fertility issues, choosing to become an LGBT parent can mean that all of the previous 4 options are available as well as the standard IVF and IUI route. You can even choose to egg share if you are a lesbian couple so that both women share a link to the child.

One thing is clear: as the world gets more expensive to live in; and stereotypes and expectations for the mainstream get broken down, the types of alternative families continues to grow and they also increase in numbers; which hopefully will result in these no longer being seen as an alternative family unit, and rather the removal of the thought of a standard family being purely that of a nuclear family of a mum and dad with children born through intercourse.