When two became five
Tristan and I have been together for 18 years, and we hadn’t really thought about children until the law changed in 2004. After a long conversation, we decided to apply to be foster parents to see how we got on. It took us two years from that point to be sure we were in a good position to become adopters, but once we’d made the decision, we quickly started the process.
We had a year of assessments, before we were approved by a rather strict adoption panel. The panel was concerned because Tristan, 45, was not ‘out’ as a gay man at work. They wanted to know how he could advocate for his child when he felt he couldn’t advocate for himself. We spent three hours with that panel, when it should have taken 40 minutes. Tristan felt like he was continually digging a hole for himself. But it resulted in us ensuring that we are always there to advocate for our children.
In 2007, we were matched with Frasier, now 18, and his brother Brandon, now 17 – they were just eight and seven at the time. We fell in love with them as soon as we saw them in a photograph and officially adopted both a year later. In 2014, Jacob, now nine, was placed with us as a foster child, and we went on to adopt him, too.
At first, we thought they would fit in with our lifestyle and that nothing would really change, but we soon realised that things were going to be very different! The first month was a lot harder than we expected it to be – not just physically, but emotionally as well.
We took on children who had personalities and were able to verbalise – or not verbalise, as the case may be. Children who have been traumatised in their early years may experience difficulties finding the right words. It took us a while to understand that because they were misbehaving at school, it didn’t mean we weren’t parenting properly. Bad behaviour often stems from early attachment issues.
It’s hard to choose just one positive thing they’ve given us. We have our ups and downs, but I feel very loved by them – and that’s an emotion I never thought I would experience.
When Frasier reached 18, we thought ‘wow, this is amazing – we’ve got there’. But being a parent isn’t just until the age of 18 – it’s for life. At some point they may want to contact their birth family. If they do, I will be proud that I have done the best I could. They’ll always have a home with me. I’ll always be their dad.
For more on UK adoption, First4Adoption.org.uk
FIND YOUR BALANCE
Dos and Don’ts for people considering adoption
Prepare for change
Your life will change, so see your friends and family as much as you can before you become a full-time parent.
I took six years off work to care for the boys, as it was recommended that they have a full-time parent.
Make your home safe
The changes you’ll need to make will depend on the age of your child.
Like any relationship, the parent-child bond will take time to develop.
Write yourself off
Anyone, within reason, can adopt – even if you are single.
Some children may have additional needs arising from trauma. The settling in period might be challenging, but it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent.
Underestimate the process
We had to jump through a lot of hoops before we were approved.
Make the decision lightly
It took Tristan and I two years to decide we were ready to become parents.