As part of LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, PinkNews.co.uk talks to one gay man about his experiences of adopting as a single parent.
Gay men and women across the UK are being invited to attend an event in the country’s first-ever LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week which is currently running nationally.
Paul, not his real name, is a teacher based in England who adopted a daughter.
PinkNews.co.uk put some questions to him this week about his experience of the process.
Paul, what prompted you to consider adopting?
As a single gay man in my early 40s, knowing no lesbians who wished to have a biological child with me but still yearning to be a parent, I was encouraged by gay male friends who had adopted before me. I had always wanted to be a dad and I spent a lot of time with my nephew who was aged almost 10 at the start of the process.
I took him to Beaver Scouts, boxing and taekwondo as well as swimming classes and days out. As my brother had walked out on his child and had a new family in a new city without seeing his son again, I became more of a parent figure to my nephew.
My proudest moment was when I found out the scout master at Beaver Scouts had been calling me my nephew’s ‘dad’ in error for two years and he never corrected him!
Could you talk us through the process?
I started originally with local authority fostering training but after completion realised I was better suited to adoption.
I then did the adoption training with the same authority but was disappointed upon completion to be told it would be up to 6 months before they appointed me a social worker and a further 9 months before I could expect to go to panel.
A chance meeting with an old friend of mine (a gay man who had adopted three boys with his partner) led to me calling Families That Last and I had a home visit a fortnight later. I was assigned a social worker within a week and we began the process of home study.
Eight months later, I went to panel and was approved to adopt two children of same gender, aged 3 and a half to 8, white or dual-ethnicity. I was the first single adopter to be just approved for two siblings, rather than ‘one or two children’.
Was adopting easier or harder than you imagined?
To be honest, harder although worthwhile. It challenges and is cathartic at the same time. There are lots of disappointments and upsets along the way but staying focused, thinking of the end result and having as much support as possible helps. I am so glad that I have done it and am a father at long last and although it seemed to take ages to happen: it was two years from the panel stage to my daughter coming to live with me.
What do friends and family think of your decision?
My small, Irish Catholic family were amazing (my late father even came to my panel with me) although I later found out they were confused between adoption and fostering.
My closest friend, herself a trans-racial adoptee, was the lynchpin and my most vocal advocate. Unfortunately, she died three months after my daughter was placed with me. So, both my father and best friend died and are not around to offer advice and help and my daughter came into a house where she encountered grief and more loss, regrettably.
Did you encounter any opposition in other areas of your personal life?
Heterosexual friends and colleagues who have chosen to remain childless are sometimes confused as to why a gay man or lesbian would want to adopt.
Likewise, younger gay men often say they couldn’t devote that much of themselves to a child permanently, for ever.
I have been told by one or two gay men that they couldn’t consider dating a gay parent as they either don’t like children all that much, or are not open to the concept of sharing.
What would you say were the biggest pressures on a single parent?
Finance is one! Children are expensive and there are always hidden costs.
At times of stress and strain there is no one to back you up and tell you that you’re doing the right thing. Also, at a simple level, there’s no one to hug you and comfort when you feel things are going wrong.
Sometimes it is hard having to keep on reinforcing boundaries and guidelines when your child is pushing and looking for ways to challenge rules and boundaries. On the plus side, your child cannot play you against another parent, try to get you to chose sides or tell you the other parent said the opposite to whatever you had said!
Also, there is no custody battle if a relationship breaks down and your child has one-to-one attention and devotion.
And what advice would you give prospective adopters?
Go for it! Be honest and open with friends and family about your plans – you’ll need them on side and available to help! If you are unhappy after contacting a specific agency or local authority, ring around others and chose the one that you feel most comfortable with. Negotiate with children’s social workers if successfully matched, an adoption allowance if you will be severely financially out of pocket by adopting.
Be clear about what children you would consider and likewise, what children you could not consider (although be prepared to fall in love occasionally with children outside your original remit when their profiles melt your heart!).
Don’t take questions asked to you by social workers (your own and children’s) personally: they have the welfare of children at heart and are looking for the best match for the child or children. Hardest for me, probably as a teacher and a man used to leading rather than being lead, allow your social worker to find suitable links of children for you.
Spend as much time before contacting adoption agencies babysitting children of friends and family – especially on overnight visits to your home. The more experience you gain the better and you will be asked how much experience you have had. If you are male especially and not involved in education, see if you can help out at a local nursery at a primary school (they are desperate for male role models and if you have a recent full-disclosure CRB they’ll usually be delighted to have you help out occasionally).
Above all, remember that until recently, we were not even allowed or considered ‘suitable’ to adopt children and even though the process can seem arduous and lengthy, it is worth it when a child calls you ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, especially for the first time.
Also, look at the websites such as Families that Last and New Family Social for information, advice forums and assistance. Remember, the right child or children are out there, are waiting for you as a parent.