Life as Adoptive Parents: National Adoption Week
We're always on the look out for new stories for parents who are going through the thick of it. Whether it's to celebrate the good times or acknowledge some of the challenges, it's good to see how other parents experience life with a little one as it can help us all to feel seen. That's why we like to champion stories from parents who often aren't heard from, like our interviews with parents who have fostered, used a surrogate or gone through the donor conception process.
So, to mark National Adoption Week, we wanted to speak to parents who have been through the adoption process and come out the other side. That's why we caught up with Peter and his husband Andrew about their experience. Having adopted via Adoption Matters, a voluntary adoption agency (VAA) and children's charity, Peter ands Andrew have first-hand experience of what it’s like to adopt a child through a VAA and share their story of what life as an adoptive dad is like.
Let's find out more...
Watch the interview or scroll down for the full transcript:
How did you decide adoption was the parenting route you wanted to take?
In terms of us knowing that adoption was the right route for us - and this is coming from a couple who said, we were never going to get married, we were never going to have kids but we did both of those things! When it came to talking about kids, we did speak about the different kind of options like surrogacy and everything else but I think we were both quite passionate about adoption and it seemed to be what we kept circling back to.
When you get to a stage you know you want to be parents, having that discussion, especially as a same sex couple, about how you go about that is important. We also thought about taking a child out of the care system and that actually became really important to us as well.
How did you set about researching ways to adopt?
We did lots of research. I think because of how we both are, we’re both quite like that as people about anything. When we commit to something we like to know that we’re doing it right or that we know what we’re doing. When it came to research, there’s so much out there to read, it’s about finding the things that are useful for you. For us it was about understanding the difference between a voluntary agency and going through a local authority. Then it was about us finding the right adoption agency as we decided not to go down the local authority route and decided on a voluntary agency. Then it was a case of finding the right one, which is quite a hard task. Because it’s so important and life-changing, you want to know you’ve got it right and you’ve got the support and right people behind you. You want to make sure they’re the right agency for you and that they’re able to support you and your ethos on your journey.
Did either of you have any reservations about adopting?
I don’t think there were reservations but I remember us sending the forms and being like, so we’re actually doing this. I think you’re just apprehensive but I mean, a different apprehension to if you’re having your own biological children but still there’s a nervousness of going, can we do this? But because we’d made that decision, we weren’t particularly scared just apprehensive.
I suppose it’s the fear of the unknown really. You can only read and research so much, it’s just then throwing yourself in head first and seeing what the ride’s going to be like.
Did you go into the adoption process with an ideal scenario?
Peter: I don’t know that there is an ‘ideal scenario’ in adoption. Some of the toughest parts of the process were reading the real life stories of the children that needed forever homes. You try to prepare yourself mentally for that as much as you can but the reality of reading the real-life stories sometimes brings it all home, so that would be one for me.
Andrew: I don’t know if I went into it with hopes of things but I think when you start on this process, that goes totally out of the window and you just have to go with it and ride it really.
Did you particularly want a younger/older child or were you pretty open minded?
Andrew: I think initially we were pretty open-minded but I think as we went further along the process, we kind of narrowed down what we wanted but initially we were open-minded.
Peter: I think initially we went into it and started discussing the idea of sibling groups and the idea of it being, the more the merrier. Then you get passionate and think okay but what is manageable for us? I suppose that would be one piece of advice from me when it comes to working out your boundaries and what is manageable for you.
Andrew: So yes, we said we want sibling groups, we want loads but then you do your research and the work – it does become apparent about what you can manage.
Peter: I think if we’re quite honest, the further we went down the process, selfishly you want to experience being a parent with a younger child. I think we adapted to that idea and I think we opened up to that the more we went down the process. When we were adopting, there were certainly a lot of younger children that were in the system as well as older groups.
Andrew: Yes, at that time there were a lot more younger children so we felt lucky in that way.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when first looking to adopt (if any)?
Peter: For me, it falls into two camps. I think there are the challenges that are just part of the process. I remember the home visit being quite scary. They come round to check that your home is suitable.
Andrew: I would say there’s a pre-panel and a post-panel. Everything up to the pre-panel where they come to your house, they do look into your fridge to check that hygiene’s in order. It can be quite overwhelming.
Peter: I think you just feel really under the microscope and I think sometimes it’s easy to forget why they’re doing those things, and at the time it can feel a little intrusive, but ultimately it’s about the safety of the children coming into your home.
The other challenge, which is the flip side for me, is the pressure you put on yourself. As a same sex couple you sometimes feel a little more judged than others going through the process. For me it’s a bit of a doubled-edged sword – so there’s the official stuff but then there’s the stuff that you put on as individuals and as a couple as well.
How long did your adoption process take? From first applying to adopting?
Andrew: Well, we were very lucky. So it was just over a year from us sending the papers off to bringing our child home so it was very, very quick for us. I think we sent off the forms in maybe September/October and we brought our little one home in the February, the year after.
Peter: Yes, so approval took almost a year and then matching, which everyone prepares you for being a long process but for us it was about six weeks. Again, I don’t think we’d prepared ourselves for it to be that quick because everyone says it might take a little bit of time, it won’t be a quick thing but for us, it was. So, over a year to get approved and then that little bit of preparing and then we got delayed because of Christmas. As eager as we were, it was about finding the right time for him.
What was your experience like going through a VAA like Adoption Matters?
Andrew: Very positive on the whole.
Peter: Coming back to how we are as a couple, we’d done lots of research about whether or not we wanted to go through a local authority versus an adoption agency. We felt the adoption agency route was the right one for us and then it became more of a case of doing the research and finding the right organisation for us. What we liked about Adoption Matters is their ethos. I remember the support they give you throughout the whole process and after the adoption was everything for us.
Andrew: We really like their whole ethos basically because we’d done a whole lot of research on other adoptive agencies and we just kept coming back to Adoption Matters. It just felt right. It’s a feeling you get, you can’t really describe it.
Peter: Yes, I suppose that would be one piece of advice from me. Just follow your gut. I think if you do that, you’re making the right decisions. I’d say that throughout the whole process, follow your gut.
Do you still go to Adoption Matters for ongoing support?
Peter: In terms of still having a relationship with Adoption Matters, we absolutely do. For us, our adoption fell at a bit of a strange time because we adopted a few weeks before lockdown, before covid became a thing. It wasn’t quite the introduction to being parents that we were expecting. We did do a few things on Zoom during that time.
Andrew: But we couldn’t draw on any in-person support during that time but since we’ve come out of the other side of lockdowns, we now go to social events and it’s really good for our child to see other adopted children and families together.
Peter: I think for us it’s about normalising being adopted and for him, whether that be going to school or something like that, him to not feel like the only one. So just being around other families who know what it’s like to experience that, just for us as parents, as much as it is for him as well.
How did you find your little boy settled into his new home with both of you?
Andrew: We had two weeks where it was just the three of us and then we slowly, slowly introduced him to our families. We would meet on neutral ground, outside of our house really gradually, which went really well. After two weeks of that, lockdown hit so we had a very, very intense first few months together which was amazing and bonding-wise, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Peter: Not quite the paternity leave you’d planned though but he settled in really well and again, I think this comes back to the pressure you put on yourselves. I know for a period we didn’t sleep as any noise we heard in the house, we were instantly at the baby monitor going, is he still alive? What’s happening? So I think he settled fine but it took us a little while to adjust as we got used to being parents and having the responsibility that comes with that but in terms of settling, he settled really well and especially in the unusual circumstances – not being able to do the regular baby classes or the other things you’d like to do. We had to get inventive with things around the house and Amazon became our best friend!
Andrew: Yes, post-its on the floor are my biggest tip!
What would you say to anyone looking to adopt?
Peter: I would say, if you’re serious about adoption, really do loads of research. If there’s something else niggling at the back of your mind about maybe what you should or could do, you need to explore that and rule that out first. Go to the information evenings, that’s what we did before making any commitments. You couldn’t really hear about it and we went armed with a list of questions.
Andrew: I would say it’s definitely a ‘go with your gut’ situation and do as much research as you can before you get to that point because once you start the process it’s quite consuming. I’d say you have to be completely, completely ready for it but also the agency help you with that. They make sure that you’re ready and the social workers will talk to you about how you’re finding it. Asking if you’re ready for this stage; the next stage – it definitely helps to have their support.
Peter: My last piece of advice would be, it’s so worth it. It’s not as easy at times and there are times where you question it. When your little person or family move in with you, it suddenly falls into place and it’s all worth it.
Andrew: It’s not easy but for all of the hard times when you are that family, it all just pales into complete insignificance.
What are the key things an adoptive parent should be prepared for from an emotional perspective?
Peter: The process that we’ve touched on a few times isn’t the easiest, it feels like you’ve got two full-time jobs at times because you’ve got your normal job during the day and then you’re at home doing paperwork at night.
Andrew: We said it was like doing our A-levels again at times! Obviously there’s a lot of paperwork and reading. There are a lot of meetings which is great and obviously all part of the process but it can take its toll emotionally I think. It does at different stages within the process but you just have to take a step back and remember the reason why you’re doing it.
Peter: Yes and I think it makes you stronger as a couple and it reaffirms why you wanted to do it in the first place. I think the other thing in terms of emotion are I suppose the more obvious things like the first time you meet your little person or people. There are just strong feelings which you obviously don’t want to show to them but just an instant connection and a love for someone you’ve just met in a millisecond. I think probably when you bring them home forever and you set about becoming a forever family and a forever home – once you start that journey it feels like the end of the adoption there but the start of a new chapter as a family.
Is the adoption process any different for LGBTQ+ couples, as opposed to heterosexual couples?
Andrew: I don’t think the process itself is any different but I think for us, looking back at when we did it, I think we probably felt like we were put under the microscope more.
Peter: I think that’s the pressure you put on yourself about being judged as a same sex couple or what people are going to think of you when you’re out and about with a pram or those sorts of things. What we’ve learnt throughout and now out of the process is that there are so many same sex couples in the LGBTQ+ community who’ve even done this journey on their own is how many people are out there from this community who’ve obviously gone down the same route. It’s been great actually to meet other couples and individuals who’ve gone through it that not only can we share the experience we’ve been through the adoption process but also that they’ve got that in common with the other children and again there are loads of groups out there for the LGBTQ+ community that are great to be a part of.
How have your family and friends supported you through your adoption journey?
Peter: Our family and friends are such an important part of our lives but even more so through this, from the moment we said we wanted to become parents. Through all the highs and lows of the adoption process.
Andrew: They were with us utterly and completely through the whole process. They lived and breathed it with us. When we took our little one home, covid did get in the way but thank goodness for Facetime and Zoom. Despite the unusual circumstances, we did birthday parties, we did the works. We still managed to create that bond and obviously when lockdown finished, we made sure to spend quite a lot of time with family and friends.
Peter: For us, it was almost a period of two introductions. One before covid and everything else since. From our perspective, it’s just been great to see him finally building the relationships that you would’ve wanted earlier – it’s just amazing.
Thank you Peter. To follow Peter’s parenting journey and his life as a Casting Director, follow @peterhuntcasting. For anyone looking for support or expert advice, visit www.adoptionmatters.org and follow @adoptionmattersuk on Instagram.
You can also find out more about this year’s National Adoption Week campaign at YouCanAdopt.co.uk