‘If we don’t get approved, it’s my fault.’ His older brother and dad disowned him when he came out. He hasn’t spoken to his birth mom for 8 years.’

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“Darran and I have been together for 3 years now and from the early stages of our relationship we both realized we wanted to become parents and discussed the many ways this could happen. In October of 2016 we took our first holiday to Australia and had the time of our lives. We met up with our friends Michelle and Grace along with their son Gabriele and witnessed the love and adoration they had for their child. This made us decide we too could be as happy as them. Once we came home the conversations about becoming a family started happening more and more.

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

After having numerous conversations with our family about getting married, buying a house and starting a family we sat down one weekend and started to think hard about what we wanted in our lives and when we wanted it. Tim looked into buying a home, I looked into many wedding venues and then Tim started to look into ways we could grow our little family of 3 (Onyx the cat) to a bigger family unit. Luckily our family were SO supportive. My mum and dad have two grandsons and were desperate for us to have our own! Darran’s mum and dad don’t have any grandkids so they were also dying for one. After each training course, social worker meeting, etc, we would go to my mum and dad to speak about it and we would also FaceTime Darran’s family as they live in Wales. Having support meant everything.

Our biggest desire was to grow our family first. In the UK all adoptions are completed with the local authority’s adoption agency. In October of 2017 I emailed our local center and requested an adoption pack which led to us attending an adoption meeting on Saturday, November 18th. The nerves were rife when we entered the room and we were roughly in the company of ten couples, three also being same-sex. We listened to what Essex County Council had to say and we got the opportunity to listen to an adopter’s story which was a gay man explaining about he and his husband’s journey to becoming a family with two children. One of our biggest worries was if we, as gay men would have a harder time. We didn’t have any idea what the adoption process was like, especially for same-sex couples. We walked away from the event feeling so much more optimistic about the whole thing.

There are two stages we had to complete. Stage one lasted 2 months and stage two lasted 4 months. We were accepted into stage one in January of 2018. We had to complete a 52-page workbook full of questions which basically covers everything about us from birth until now, everywhere we’ve lived, family tree, full health history and education etc. It took us ages to fill this out…actually I stand corrected, it took Darran a long time to fill this out! I found it easy to complete but Darran’s life had included many cities, family problems, and ex-boyfriends which all had to be documented. Darran really struggled to remember some of his past as he had locked it away in the deepest part of his memory box and it was time to open it.

We attended a workshop on January 25th which was created to help us understand the workbook. We attended an ‘Induction to Adoption’ day on January 29th, 2018 where we learned how stage one would pan out, what to expect and the next steps. This is where we met our new friends Jonny and Anthony. Having another gay couple as our friends that day made things more relaxed and was good to see more same-sex couples going through the same journey as us.

The next few months were all about completing the workbook while both working full time and it left us with the evenings to sit and complete the book and work on it together. During this time we were struggling to pin down our doctor to complete our health checks. This was vital to be completed before we could be taken through to stage two. Weeks and weeks passed by, we had completed our workbook and sent it off and we were still waiting for our medicals to be done. In the meantime our friends and family had received their letters in the post to write our references. I wouldn’t say we were nervous about these but more like overwhelmed. Completing a 52 page booklet with at least 3 questions per page was daunting and stressful. I’ve had a very ‘normal 2 point 4′ kind of life. However, Darran hasn’t. He hasn’t spoken to his birth mum for 8 years, his older brother and his dad disowned him when he came out and he has a distant relationship with his younger brother. The people he calls his mum and dad now are his Auntie and Uncle. It was also hard for Darran to pinpoint where he had actually lived the last 10 years. I on the other hand have only lived in 3 properties which have been in the same town. Darran also had to make contact with an old ex boyfriend as social service needed a reference from him. We had to put down past significant relationships (people you have lived with etc) and that was stressful to say the least!

We were allowed to choose one family member and two friends as references. We chose my parents as they live around the corner and our close friends Dan and Sara who have three adorable children and are very special to us. We also picked our friend Laura who is part of ‘the girls.’ These girls are very good friends to us and have supported us throughout our process. If we could have put all three, Steph and Michelle would have been listed too. We also had to complete an ‘Eco Map’, to describe how our network of friends and family would be there to support us. We have many of our close friends and family listed living all over the UK and of course our friends in Australia.

Next we received an email from our local authority letting us know they have not yet received our medical checks which we have been chasing this whole time just to get an appointment. If they didn’t receive them soon we will have our stage one extended and we will not be processed to stage two. It was a harrowing time. 

At the beginning of April we had just received an email from a senior practitioner from the local authority. She wanted to arrange a meeting to discuss more details about Darran’s childhood and some events in his life. On the morning of our meeting Caroline arrived and we put the kettle on. We sat at the dining table (very formal), Darran and I one side, Caroline the other. I held Darran’s hand in support as I knew it would be very difficult for Darran to discuss his colorful past. The meeting lasted a few hours so I guess Darran had a lot to talk about! Caroline left and we had a cuddle on the sofa. Darran always doubted the process. He would always say, ‘If we don’t get approved, it’s my fault.’ I haven’t spoken much about his childhood and adult life but it was rough. I never doubted anything, anyone who knows Darran knows what an amazing human he is and what an amazing dad he would make.

On May 4th, 2018, we get an email saying ‘Hello Darran and Tim, I am pleased to inform you the decision has been made for you to progress to stage 2.’ We were over the moon and we both had a cry as we were one step closer to becoming dads. And of course we called all of our family and friends! We were both so happy and excited about what’s next. 

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

We started stage two on June 6th. It was mandatory to attend three days of training. Little did we know the next three days would start a blossoming friendship and a WhatsApp Group that wouldn’t stop going! We learned many of the course topics on day one like ‘The Development Wall’, Attachment, Experiences of Neglect and Abused Children, Toxic Stress and Making it Better. We ended the day with a bit of theraplay and a WARNING day two would be an emotional one.

On day two we started to talk about loss in a child’s life and would be talking about loss within our lives. Darran had not long ago laid his granddad to rest which he struggled to come to terms with. We go round the room and after hearing everyone’s stories of many different types of loss. We were all a mess and very teary, some left the room and tissues were passed around by the bucket load. We finished day two with ‘Contact and Making it Better’, ‘What is Resilience’, ‘Family Finding’ and finished by viewing some children’s profiles. We also got to listen to some of the mothers’ accounts of how their children came into their care and the adoption process. This was hard to watch and hit me like a truck.

The final day was a lot lighter than the day before and by the end of it it was clear we had formed a close friendship with all 3 couples and continue to do so. We covered the topics ‘The Assessment Process’, ‘The Adoption Panel’, ‘Linking and Matching’, ‘Life as an Adoptive Family’, ‘The Parents Job’, ‘Asking for Help’, ‘Learning to Live Together’ and what we have to offer as ‘Prospective Adoptive Parents’.

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

We also had to meet with our social worker once a week for nine weeks. This started on June 20, 2018 and was created to get to know the real us and to discuss what we had written in our workbook. Over the past nine weeks we have really gotten to know Ann and she has really gotten to know us. We’ve talked about so many things and opened up so much about our past and what we want our future to look like. On the last day Ann showed us some profiles of children needing their ‘forever home’. This is when we first heard about a little boy called ‘Pudding’. I knew immediately he would become our son. We were shown a few profiles and Pudding was the last to be read. He has impartial hearing loss in both ears and needs to wear hearing aids. His love for music is what really drove us to him. We both love music and have it on all the time. After the social worker finished reading his profile and then showed us some pictures – It was ‘love at first read!’

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

On Saturday, September 29th, 2018 we attended a profiling event in London at Barnardos. We went not knowing what to expect but knowing we will be looking at many children’s profiles. After being given a briefing about how the day works we went in with an open mind, ready to look at a specific profile we’d already been shown. We managed to speak to Pudding’s social worker who gave us loads more information about him. We then checked out many more children’s profiles…WOW! By the end of the day Darran had a headache but we managed to sit down and put in a ‘register of interest form’ for four mini humans including Pudding. If it was up to us we would adopt all four and be done with it but sadly it wasn’t possible. We discussed the four children with our social worker and ‘whittled it down’ to two. This was probably the hardest part of going through the adoption process.

The next step was to prepare for our approval panel which was on October 15, 2018. Our panel time was 10:55. We drove to Colchester to where our meeting took place which is about 50 minutes away. Our social worker was sitting in the waiting area and greets us with a BIG smile and could see we were slightly stressed. We sign in and she lets us know they must be running late. After entering the room we are greeted by eight people of which six of them had questions for us. We go around the room and they introduce themselves and Ann introduced us. Then the questions started. We finally leave the room and wait for what felt like a lifetime but was about 5 mins. The chair comes in and informs us it was a ‘YES!’ We didn’t really say anything to each other. Once we were told we both cried a lot and of course gave each other a hug. While we were walking to the car we didn’t say anything. It just felt like a massive relief. All the hard work we had done and all the doubting we did was over. We were going to be dads! 

We later attended a ‘craft day’ on October 20th to meet children looking for ‘forever homes’. We were given a brief from two social workers explaining the day, what to expect and some information on a few of the kids. Then we left out of the room into the unknown. Darran and I were first out of the room to be greeted by NO kids! As it was a nice day they all decided to go outside. So off we go to hunt down some kids. We also got to meet Pudding for the very first time! We both connected with him. He said as soon as he saw me with him, carrying him around, it was a yes from him. We were both feeling happy and excited as the FC mentioned she advised social services Pudding would be be better suited with two men as he wasn’t a fan of women. It just seemed like everything was falling into place. I go up to what looks like his case worker and introduce myself. She then says ‘are you Darran and Tim? I’ve heard about you!’ YES! Our names are getting out there and she seemed to like what she had heard about us.

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

We both start chatting with her but I’m more interested in interacting with him. I take his hand and we both go off to explore. I pick up a ball and throw it against some brick building. He picks the ball up and walks over to the building and touches the ball with it. I start clapping and he starts giggling. We walk on a bit more when he starts pointing up to the trees. I pick him up and we both start pulling at the leaves and rub them against our faces which makes him grin and giggle. We look over fences, kick some giant tire and just walk around. 

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

We got to meet Pudding’s social worker and his family finding social worker on November 6th. We were able to ask questions about Pudding, what happened and why he came into care. We had tons of questions. The social workers also had questions for us which we seemed to answer correctly! They both agree this looks like it will be a good match so they book us a family linking meeting. This meeting is for our social worker, Pudding’s social worker, the family finding social worker and an impartial manager to discuss Darran and I and to see if we are suitable to care for Pudding. Thankfully, we received a yes.

We were then informed the matching panel was booked for Jan 7th, 2019. The matching panel is just like our approval panel but for us to get a yes to adopt Pudding. Thankfully we also received a yes at the matching panel! It was all falling into place! We started the the transition’s on January 25, 2019. We would start by going to the foster’s house for around three hours per day. We took Pudding out locally and got his hair cut. On day five Pudding came to our house. His carer stayed for the first day but would leave Pudding with us moving forward. We went to pick Pudding up from the foster carers house on Feb 6th, 2019. We were only allowed to stay for half an hour before we were told to get Pudding and go home! We were more happy this time. We knew it would be a yes. We’d had so many meetings with social services about adopting Pudding and this panel was just a formality. However when we were told of the panel’s decision we were over the moon. It was official, we were his daddies!

Courtesy of Tim Shaw

We have continued calling him Pudding on social media as we are not allowed to reveal his name or face until he is legally ours. We have to share guardianship with social service for a minimum of 10 weeks before we are allowed to put the court order in for us to be his sole guardians. I wouldn’t say we’re nervous just impatient as he still isn’t legally ours so we have this hanging over our head. I understand why they do it and I know it’s a good thing. People would be shocked to know how many adoptions break down, it’s heartbreaking!  Pudding has changed our lives completely and we both wouldn’t change a thing. I was lucky to have five weeks off. Generally the ‘dads’ are entitled to 2 weeks paternity leave or they can actually share the 9 month maternity leave with the mum too. I didn’t realize just how much hard work and tiring a 2-year-old can be to parent. Even when there was two of us off at the same time it was hard. I take my hat off to Darran for doing this on his own during the day. I just wished I didn’t have to work and could be there all the time! Soon we will be able to show Pudding’s face proudly as our son. We can’t wait. 

Courtesy of Tim Shaw
Courtesy of Tim Shaw

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tim Shaw from Essex. You can follow his family on Instagram here. Do you have a beautiful adoption story to share? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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Read more uplifting adoption stories here:

‘We didn’t look at adoption as ‘Plan B’ anymore. We look at it as a privilege, and something we were honored to say yes to.’

‘The morning of her adoption, as the sun crept into our room, I watched her sleep. I studied the curve of her lips, the fullness of her perfect cheeks. This is the moment everything changes.’

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