When you're asked to write 500 to 600 words about adoption, the mind goes a little blank. Not through lack of anything to say, oh no! There's so much to say, so much wonder, emotion and joy to share that to cram it all into such a short piece could never do it justice. So, I shall start by asking you, dear reader, to forgive those few extra words that take me over the word count and to remember that when you get to the end, I will have barely scratched the surface of the incredible experience of adopting a child.
Choosing to adopt was, for us, a no brainer. As two gay chaps born in the Eighties, we lived through the heady days of Equal Age of Consent, the Repeal of Section 28 and the recognition of same-sex couples and their right to marry. By the time we both considered children, we felt like we were soaring on a wave of equality, with agencies and councils alike advertising how happy they would be to accept same-sex couples as potential adopters.
Of course, we flirted with the idea of surrogacy; who doesn't fantasise about a birth child? When it came down to it though, knowing that so many children out there need a home, and that we had one to give, made it an easy choice.
Adoption is a unique challenge
As much of the training we received and many of the books we read would tell us - repeatedly, with varying levels of sensitivity and some heavy, even brutal honesty - adopted children come with a somewhat unique challenge. Let's be honest, children don't get taken into care because they're living in a happy home. If you adopt, you accept as part of the deal that your future little person will come from a background of neglect, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical violence, sexual abuse, or worse - a combination of these. As an adoptive family, these are the burdens you will all have to bear. Was this realisation worrying? Of course, it was terrifying at times. Does it matter when our son looks me in the eye and says 'I love you Daddy’? Of course not!
All agencies and councils offer some level of access to support, training and ongoing help even after you have the adoption order. It's a team effort, but every child deserves a chance to come to accept these challenges and face them as part of a loving family. Sure, you worry if they will ever really be able to move past the past, but adoption is about loving the whole child and giving them that chance.
So there we were, two gay guys, ready to adopt. Who to turn to, where to go? We approached Diagrama after a brief flirtation with the local council and they welcomed us with open arms. We went to an information evening (most people's first step) and met the friendly social workers and a lovely adopter who told us about all the fun and trials we could expect. The process of approval is a two-stage affair. Stage 1 is all about your finances, you and the lifestyle that a child would be coming into. Medicals and criminal record checks galore. Stage 2 is a fun few months of talking about what you want from family life, what type of child or children you imagine will be a part of your future, and some super training.
No-one is an island in adoption
Oh yes - they don’t expect you to have a child move in without at least offering you some training! We had an incredible three days learning about attachment theory (something adopters need to know a lot about and which is so useful to understand), hearing from other adopters and taking part in activities designed to really open up your mind to the realities of family life with a child who has gone on an adoption journey. It doesn’t end there either; we’ve since been able to attend courses provided by Diagrama on attachment and a host of other adoption-related topics like therapeutic parenting and the power of play. One thing you’ll learn pretty soon is that no one is an island in adoption. There’s always someone there to help.
Oh, how I wish I had the word count to tell you more, alas, I shall leave you with this nugget of wisdom from my wonderful father. He said to me at the beginning of our journey, ‘If you ask yourself if it’s the right time to have a child, it will never be the right time. Having a family is something you just have to do’. And guess what, dear reader, from the bottom of my heart, I really hope you do too.
If you are interested in transforming a child’s life through fostering or adoption, Diagrama urgently wants to hear from you. Diagrama has a full programme of information events throughout the year. Visit our events page to find an information evening near you.