‘He’s the perfect child for us!’ We noticed Little Man was struggling. I felt like we were ripping him away from all he knew.’: Same-sex couple share adoption journey

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“James and I met in 2013, and raising a family was something we had both mentioned in passing but had never really given much thought to. After getting married in 2016, we began talking more about raising our own family but there was never any immediate pressure and we also didn’t really know where to go to find out what was available to us as a same-sex couple. Over the next few years, the nature of our conversations began to get more serious. In 2018 and after speaking with a few same-sex adoptive families, we both agreed we would like to pursue the route to parenthood of adoption.

We were initially interviewed by one of the leading adoption agencies in London, however, sadly, we had a negative experience. The Social Worker interviewing us was extremely cold and impersonal, something we didn’t expect and it put us off with going any further with them. However, we did more research over the following weeks and found a local agency that invited us to an information event.

Courtesy of Daddy, Dad, and Me

We recall walking into the event one summer evening with a mixture of people and listened for several hours as we were told about what the process entailed and the stark realities of adoption too. It was very hard hearing about the neglect, trauma, and abuse children will have faced for them to be removed from their birth families. This brutal honesty about the type of children did not deter us at all and we both agreed to pursue our dream of adoption with this particular agency.

The adoption process in the United Kingdom differs from that of adoption in the US and worldwide. To summarise, we submitted our formal Registration of Interest (ROI) with our agency, which saw us formally agreeing to pursue our adoption with them. We started Stage 1 in September 2018 and this saw us completing a 60-page booklet documenting our family tree and details about our own upbringing, values, relationships, and everything about us. We also had to visit our doctor as medicals are required of each adopter.

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Once all of this was complete, we progressed onto Stage Two, which is where all of the Social Worker assessments took place at home. These assessments were there to talk about all aspects of our own lives as children, how we had been parented, relationships, schooling, and more. In essence, our Social Worker would know us better than anybody else. Over several months, we took part in the assessment sessions, often lasting up to 3 hours. Some were more emotional than others as we were recalling painful memories or things about our past. It was important we shared this information.

At the same time as the assessments, we took part in mandatory training with our agency. The training was split over 3 days and was extremely in-depth covering all aspects of adoption. A lot of the training centred around the children and how they may feel when first moving to their forever home. We both found this extremely tough to hear but it certainly cemented we wanted to proceed with adoption. Nothing was going to put us off.

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We went to the approval panel in October 2019. This formal meeting is held by every agency and Local Authority. It is for an impartial panel of members including foster carers, medical advisors, social workers, adopters, and adoptees to review the Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) which comes from our assessments and all the information gathered about us up until this point. We were extremely nervous on the day itself and the panel asked us a lot of questions, more than we expected them to, but they were all areas we had prepared to be questioned about.

Whilst the panel decided our fate, we waited in a separate room which felt like we were waiting for an eternity for a decision that would forever change our life. Within a few minutes, the chairperson came in and told us we had been unanimously approved as adopters. Well over a year’s worth of preparation, assessments, training, and more had paid off and we could now start looking for our son.

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We were soon given access to a database of children who were seeking their forever home. It was so hard to see just how many children in the UK were seeking their forever family. There were thousands of children. Absolutely heartbreaking. It was hard not to fall in love with all the profiles we saw but we knew from our training, we seriously had to consider the child, their needs and background to ensure it felt like a good match. We had to consider different types of abuse and the effects this has amongst other developmental and psychological matters. It was tough seeing the faces of children, many of whom were so young. Knowing the sense of loss and grief each child would have felt at being removed from their birth family — it was an unbearable feeling. We had to remain positive and continued to consider different profiles in the weeks ahead.

Often there would be periods of time where we would not hear anything at all and that was very hard to handle. We had been full-on for a long time with things always happening with the adoption, yet now we were expected to cope with the silence not knowing when things would change. It was hard but as anyone going through the adoption process will tell you — you remain positive and resilient despite any setbacks or challenges.

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After a few months, we saw a profile of a little boy who had the most infectious smile in all his photos. He was really sweet, and from the look of his profile, he sounded like such a fun and happy boy. We both spent time studying his profile and agreed we wanted to know more so we contacted his Social Worker to notify them of our interest. In what felt like months, we were contacted to be told we, along with other couples who had also shown interest, would be shortlisted with several others. We were already invested in Little Man and hoped we would soon hear good news. We waited a few weeks and finally heard, after shortlisting suitable couples, we had been chosen as the preferred prospective adopters! A meeting was arranged for a number of Social Workers to descend upon us to speak about this beautiful boy. The meeting was scheduled for Friday the 13th. Ah! It may be unlucky for some, but it turned out to be a very lucky day for us.

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Friday the 13th and Christmas were arriving in a few weeks… Would our Christmas gift arrive early this year? We hoped so. We put on a light lunch, a festive one of course for our guests. We’ve always been the type of couple to make others feel comfortable within our home. The house had been cleaned, scrubbed, polished, and vacuumed in the days leading up to our meeting. Not a single speck of dust survived. The meeting went extremely well and lasted several hours. We both spoke about why Little Man was the perfect child for us and vice versa. We had already fallen in love with him and hoped our stars aligned for it to all fall together. We soon heard from our Social Worker who dropped our guests off at a nearby train station — they loved us. Phew! However there was still a long way to go and what with Christmas, we would have to wait until the New Year until a formal link was confirmed.

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This was it. Our son was within reach and we had a few months to go until we were scheduled to be interviewed at the panel to be matched with him. In the New Year, we heard a number of meetings had been arranged for us to meet Little Man and his Foster Carers. These meetings went incredibly well. His Foster Carers were amazing in sharing everything about his day-to-day goings-on. We soon arrived at the day we would first meet him and we were nervous beyond belief. Would he like us? How would he react? What happens if he didn’t like us? Every emotion and feeling, we felt.

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It couldn’t have gone any better. As soon as we saw him, we could clearly see he was overwhelmed by it all, however, in what seemed like minutes, he was happily playing in the play center we had arranged to meet. He was obviously understandably wary of us as two new people whom he had never met before, so we took things slowly. After an hour or so, we had the opportunity to be with him with others nearby, and he responded positively to this and he then asked us to go and play with him. We were total strangers a few hours before and now our future son was playing with us and lapping up all this attention. It was like an out-of-body experience for us both. We didn’t want to leave his side and we all got emotional and teary when we had our first goodbyes. Over the next month, we met Little Man a handful more times for play dates and to be in his company, and for him to get used to seeing us. Each time, he would run towards us with open arms and this was obviously a good sign.

It was approaching March 2020, which is when our matching panel had been scheduled for. However, on the same day as our matching panel, less than half an hour before going in to be interviewed, we received the heartbreaking news a legal challenge had been made by his birth parents. We hoped for a quick resolution, however sadly the next week the entire United Kingdom was put into lockdown due to the global pandemic. Therefore with no courts operating, it would be a painful 3-month wait before we would finally learn a court date had been set. Those 3 months were the toughest we have ever faced. Our mental health suffered badly and at times, we questioned if we could go on. Not only could we not see family and friends but now our plans to become a family appeared to be stopped.

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It wasn’t long before after the court hearing we were informed of the outcome at court and our adoption could proceed. However, now due to the health risk of the Coronavirus, multiple risk assessments had to be completed and introductions planned extremely carefully — they were to happen in a few week’s time and we had to therefore self isolate at home. As we had originally planned for everything to be finalized 3 months earlier, the house was ready so there was very little for us to do other than to wait for a few weeks.

Our introductions had been meticulously planned so we spent 6 days with Little Man at the Foster Carers house, with us staying nearby. Then 4 days spent with us being home and the Foster Carer nearby before his official placement date. This allowed for a smooth transition from his current home to that of his forever home. The first few days went smoothly however midway through we noticed Little Man was struggling between us and the Foster Carers, almost like he had split loyalties and didn’t know who to turn to.

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We had a day planned at a local zoo and agreed we would take Little Man for a small period of time so he started to get used to being away from his carer. This was really hard and within seconds of walking only a few feet away, he was distraught. He looked scared and frightened with what was going on. How on earth could we go any further like this? We consulted the professionals involved and called a meeting later that day — it was then planned we would spend time with Little Man alone over the course of the next few days to help his transition.

Within this time, we noticed the difference in him, but he was still struggling with who to turn to with lots of adults around. I was waking up with anxiety sickness each day and I was finding it extremely difficult to keep my emotions in check. I felt like we were ripping this little boy away from all he knew. He must’ve been so scared and he didn’t have a clue what was happening.

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Before long, our time was over with the foster carers and it was time to travel home and to prepare for Little Man to come home forever. He was so excited when he arrived on the first day at home. He wanted to play with all his toys, he met Ralph The Dachshund, and whilst the 4 days were a real awakening to life with a toddler and how life would be for a while, we all appeared to adapt well to this sudden change we had prepared for so long.

Once he was officially placed and as we couldn’t get out to many places due to being in lockdown, we spent lots of time at home and in our local area. The summer weather was great to spend most of our days outdoors as a family. In the coming weeks Little Man met some of our immediate family and this was a fantastic moment for us to witness. He loved having their attention and it was clear they loved meeting their grandson for the first time.

Courtesy of Daddy, Dad, and Me

It’s now been 8 months since Little Man has been home and he has settled so well into his life at home. Within a few months, he started nursery, and more recently he started a Forest School. He has grown and developed so much in that time. We see the progress he makes each week. When he first came home he had a rather limited language whereas now he is able to string sentences together and his vocabulary is coming on each and every day. We’re super proud of him and all he is achieving. His tantrums are becoming less and less but we know this is all typical toddler behavior and just a way of him navigating his way through this phase of his life. It’s as much a journey for him as it is for us.

We are so humbled and appreciative for all the support we get from others being a same-sex family. Thus far we have not encountered any negative behavior or comments, but rather moments where others may have naturally assumed Little Man has a mummy at home. It’s in these moments we talk to others about adoption to educate them. It isn’t a taboo or hidden subject that should not be spoken about. This is one of the main reasons why we speak so openly and honestly on our social media because we want to educate others about adoption and to continually raise awareness of adoption.

Courtesy of Daddy, Dad, and Me

We believe it is also important for us to promote how we function as a same-sex family whilst helping others who may be considering adoption, fostering and those who may be unsure where to turn next. We are now nearly 3 years on from the start of our journey and we have learned so much in that time and will continue to do so. If we can help others and raise awareness of the adoption community — then we’re proud to do that and hope what we do normalizes this and of being a same-sex family.

For anyone in a similar position, do not be frightened the adoption process or route to parenthood will be impossible. Yes, we have had to do a lot of work to get to where we are, but it shows how resilient we have been through all we have been faced with. Every single part has been absolutely worthwhile and we can now happily live as a family, proudly raising our beautiful son.

Wanted. Chosen. Loved. Adopted.”

Courtesy of Daddy, Dad, and Me

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Daddy, Dad, and Me from Kent, England. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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