Father’s Day and LGBT Adoption
Father’s Day rolls around again this Sunday 17th June and across the country dads will be woken to offers of homemade cards and presents in celebration of the pivotal and wonderful role they play in their children’s lives.
In adoptive families there is often an added poignancy from the shadow of the fathers who are not there, just as there is on Mother’s Day for the mothers who are not there. It’s one of the ways in which when you adopt you become a different type of family – the same but different. What is the same is the love that parents have for their children and the need that children have for that love.
And families today are increasingly different in their size, shape and make-up. More and more often LGBT couples and singles are turning to adoption as a way of making their families.
Here at CCS Adoption we recently asked a couple of dads – Craig and David – who adopted with us to share their adoption journey. No doubt they will be celebrating Father’s Day this year.
What brought you to adoption and can you remember when you decided to adopt?
We always thought that we’d like to have kids at some point in the future, but it wasn’t until a few years after we had our civil partnership that we actually considered options. That would have been around 2013. As a gay male couple our starting point was either surrogacy or adoption. We went to an event in London on surrogacy, and we left feeling like it wasn’t right for us – it felt too complicated and expensive, particularly when there are lots of children out there in need of a good home. So, we decided to start looking into adoption.
Why did you choose CCS Adoption?
We attended an LGBT event in Bristol – in early 2016 I think – and got chatting to a social worker there. She seemed really nice and was from CCS. We also liked the look of the website and materials they produced. My husband called a few other agencies and local authorities – we just didn’t get as a good a feeling from them. It all felt like a huge leap into the dark – but we felt a bit more comfortable doing that with CCS!
How did you find the assessment process and training?
I found it really tough to, effectively, give up my privacy during the assessment – and some of the training sessions covered very challenging topics. We took a break between stage 1 and 2 to gather our thoughts, and make sure we were definitely up for it – and we went on a lovely holiday after we were approved.
Despite how tough it was at points, ultimately it made us feel much more ready for kids – and stronger as a couple. I’ve had quite a few friends with kids say they wish they’d gone through something similar to prepare them for the impact of parenthood! We also made some great friends who we met during training.
Can you remember hearing about and then meeting your children for the first time?
Our elder son’s profile came across our social worker’s desk, and she mentioned him to us – he was a very cute baby, and we both felt he looked a little bit like my husband and my brother’s little boys. So there was an immediate connection – it wasn’t ‘love at first sight’ (if such a thing exists) – it was more like ‘hope at first sight’.
I’d count the ‘blind viewing’ of him ahead of matching panel to be the first time we met him, as he was only about a year old. We were incredibly nervous in the moments leading up to seeing him – like we were connected to a live wire. A little shoe being thrown out of a car door was the first glimpse. He was and is a wild, joyous little boy.
Our younger son was born a while after his brother was placed with us. We immediately felt connected to him through his big brother. We first met him when he was a few months old – ahead of matching panel again. He squawked and smiled and we went away hopeful he’d be a more chilled-out version of his brother. The jury’s still out on that.
What were the early days like?
It’s a huge change to almost everything you do – particularly if you’re giving up work. Your identity is changing. You probably sleep less. You’re learning lots of new things. You’re building a bond with a little human. I found it pretty overwhelming at first – not in a bad or good way – just very full-on and tiring. And in the middle of that you’ll have moments of sheer delight and enormous irritation – and maybe flashes of ‘oh god, was this a mistake’ and ‘I’m the luckiest person in the world’. We talked to people about how we were feeling (particularly to each other), but basically we found that if we just got on with the day-to-day jobs of childcare, it all slowly settles down and becomes the new normal.
Can you tell us a bit about your children?
The older one is a very energetic, inquisitive and cheeky little chap. He’s got a great sense of humour and loves to dance. He can also be very sweet – he’s even started being nice to his little brother (sometimes).
The little one is very easy going – loves to smile and laugh. The only time he gets really grumpy is when he’s tired or it’s a mealtime – he takes his food very seriously. If you’re too slow at feeding, he’ll let you know.
Has there been anything that surprised you?
Oddly, we didn’t expect how much of a physical impact it would have on us at the start particularly – not just how tired we’d be (that was stressed) – but how much we’d ache from carrying heavy little ones around so much!
Do your children have contact with their birth family and what impact does it have on them?
Just letterbox – we’ve not received anything from them yet, and they’re too young to understand at the moment. (Though we try to talk about tummy mummy and daddy now and again anyway, just to get into the habit.)
What is family life like now?
It feels like any other family with two under twos might feel. Busy! Lots of outdoors and fresh air where possible. It’s still early days with younger brother, so we’re still adapting a bit.
What have been the best and hardest bits of adoption for you?
Building a family – and seeing our children develop – that’s been really amazing.
I found the assessment process very hard – but, ultimately, rewarding. Making a decision at the family finding stage felt hard too – though our eldest was one of the earlier profiles we looked at.
What has been your friends and families involvement in your adoption journey?
They’ve been really involved throughout. They supported us throughout the assessment – and they’re a huge support now we’ve got children. Help from others is so important – particularly when something unexpected happens. Two weeks before introductions for our youngest, I sprained my ankle and was on crutches – trying to look after a lively toddler. Help from my family and friends was invaluable then!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about adopting?
Speaking personally, I found it very hard to know if it would be right for me – I find it hard to make big decisions like this, where you don’t get to do a practice run beforehand. But we always felt that we’d really regret not doing it. So even when the process was difficult, we felt it was right for us to continue – so we persevered.
So, if you think adoption could be for you (even if you’re not totally sure), I’d encourage you to find out more. Don’t worry if you find the assessment and training tough – it’s meant to be. It does provide helpful preparation, and you’ll make friends (who you can have playdates with, potentially!).
Also, I’d say, for what it’s worth – you shouldn’t worry that you might have a lesser connection with your child because you’re an adoptive parent. I feel that society and culture sometimes suggests that’s the case. Being an adoptive parent doesn’t feel any different from a more traditional kind of parenthood (so far as I can tell) – if you care for them every day you build the bond with them. Through your care and thought, and their need for it, you build love.