[JURIST] The Adoption and Children Act [text], a new UK law effective Friday, has for the first time granted unmarried and same-sex couples in England and Wales the right to adopt children. The new legislation is designed to encourage adoption and find homes for the 1,000-2,000 children who fail to be adopted each year. Previously, only married or single people could become adoptive parents. Other provisions of the act include giving biological parents the right to initiate contact with children they gave up for adoption and allowing foster parents to apply for continuous guardianship until the child reaches 18. The UK Department for Education and Skills provides background materials. BBC News has more.