I can remember the desire to be a parent from a young age. Back at school I wrote a story about how my life would be in the year 2000. I predicted being a dad to three children. I am pretty sure this was my early powers of visualisation, as at that time I started to visualise having a family and now I do.
I think because I was the product of a broken home with my mum and my sister at one address and my dad and I at another, I yearned for a family of my own, to do things in a very different way.
Fast forward many years, when I “came out” as a gay man, I thought my ability to be a parent had been quashed. Little did I know that the World and its perceptions (particularly in the UK) were changing and today almost 1 in 6 children in the UK are adopted by a same-sex family. Great progress!!
Over the years, my friends invited me to be godparent to their children and I have loved being part of their lives, but I still had a strong desire to parent my own children.
I chatted with some amazing LGBT parents (LGBTTQQIAAP for the political correction police), including British-born, and incredible American basketball player, John Amaechi OBE. I also spoke with Lou Englefield Director of Pride Sports who had both adopted and had a birth child.
Very heartwarming and in recognition of my desire to be a parent, some of my best girl friends offered to be a surrogate for me. I investigated surrogacy. Did you know California is one of the only places in the World whereby the mother of a child can relinquish her rights as the childs’ mother, making it impossible to change her mind after she gives birth. A fear with a lot of parents going through surrogacy.
But having met so many orphans in Malawi, it didn’t feel right for me to bring another child into the World when there were so many needing a forever family. And not just in Malawi. Back in 2010, there were almost 70,000 children in care and around 5,000 children with adoption orders, awaiting their forever family.
In January 2011, the process to adopt started with training courses, a thorough probe into my life from being a child, through to how I might support the ongoing needs of an adopted child.
Just over a year later after being approved for adoption, I can remember the joy of meeting the foster carer of my new daughter. She shared three photos of Sophie a 7-month-old baby she had cared for since birth at the matching meeting.
I knew from those three photos, that I couldn’t wait to meet her and to give her the best life I possibly could.
Sophie is just about to celebrate her tenth birthday at the end of this week. She is the most adorable, beautiful, funny, intelligent, caring person you will ever meet!
I can remember like it was yesterday, waking before she woke and lying outside her bedroom, waiting to hear a giggle or a cry, which was my cue to rush into her nursery to start the day.
Within her “paperwork” was a phone number of the family who had adopted her older brother, a few years before she was born.
Finding her older brother and introducing them together was one of the best things I have ever done in my life and I hope their relationship will last a lifetime. (I know it will). Sophie and her older brother are super close and have a fabulous bond. I have been extremely lucky to be part of that journey. I treat the big brother like my own son with joint birthday parties, holidays, happiness, and love.
Around 2013, having settled Sophie into full-time nursery where she was thriving, I made the decision to adopt a second child.
Instead of using a “local authority” adoption agency, I chose to use a private/charitable adoption agency. In my case, a big mistake!
Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible benefits of using one of these agencies, and please don’t let my experience put you off. On the plus side, they are only concerned with placing children with the right families. Unlike “local authority” agencies they don’t have the difficult job of protecting, removing children, and then making the right decisions for the future of those children be it long-term foster care or adoption.
This means that they have more time for the process and probably more after adoption support. But to my detriment, because they do not remove children from birth families they are reliant on only having access to the children that a “local authority” agency are having trouble to place, maybe older children or children with more complex needs.
For my second adoption, I went through the approval process at a time when, (luckily for the children of the UK in care), there had been a lot of programmes on television showcasing the benefits of adopting, meaning an abundance of adoptive parents. This was also coupled with the judicial system doing everything they could not give adoption orders, preferring to give birth parents another chance. Social workers commented at the time, that the latter was storing up problems for the future.
Summer my second child placed in 2017, was a miracle child because, if your social worker was unable to find you a child within a certain timeframe, you were allowed to use the online resources and start to apply for children by yourself. During a two-year period, I read the profiles of hundreds of children and I applied for 46 children. During the same two-year period I was rejected 46 children. The process left me heartbroken and many of the adoptive parents whom I met on training courses, simply gave up.
I then discovered that the birth mum of my daughter was pregnant. Sadly for birth mum, her situation to care for children had not improved.
I was told that Summer was to join our family from birth and I would take the role of foster carer until her adoption order had come through on what is known as a “foster to adopt” placement.
A few twists and turns later and her big sister and I had to wait until a formal adoption order was made as a family member had put themselves forward to care for her.
The process of adoption can be difficult. You need strength and resilience. You also have to keep your eye on the prize, which for me, is driving my child home from the foster carers home for the last time and starting your loving journey with your new family member. You also have to trust the process and know that if it is meant to happen, it will.
You have to trust the fabulous social workers who are always thinking about the best interests of the child in care. You have to know that there is an army of wonderful foster carers who at a moments notice take a child into their home to shower them with love and happiness until that child moves to their forever home. A role I don’t think I could do.
Adopting is not for the faint-hearted, but opening your home and your heart to a child who might have been subjected to a difficult upbringing through no fault of their own, is such a wonderful and fulfilling thing to do.
So I urge you to consider if adopting a child is right for your family. I urge you to get involved with National Adoption Week if you are curious and have unanswered questions!
Currently, in the UK, there are 3,000 children in need of an adoptive family. Numbers of adoption in the UK have fallen in recent years, so if you have room in your heart and room in your home, please think seriously about adopting a child.
Approach your local adoption agencies with questions about the process and if I can help in any way with your practical questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I will be at EMEX on 24th and 25th November, so grab a coffee with me, to ask away!