What do you think of when you hear the word “child in care”? Or foster care? Or adoption? They’re big words and big concepts that aren’t always understood; the process is often shrouded in mystery, but it shouldn’t be. Adoption is something to be proud of; you still become a family, no matter the bloodline.
Perhaps I’m fortunate; I’ve learnt about the process through both my work in fostering and residential settings (by no means front-line, it should be said; administration and communications are my specialisms) and by getting to adopt a beautiful child who I love and cherish without question. I wanted to become a dad but, being single, I needed to think creatively; I didn’t want to hold out for a a relationship that might or might not work out, and to imagine that I would be in a couple just because I wanted them to give me a child didn’t seem fair or right. So I took the decision to go it alone; I’m that rare breed of parent – a single father by choice.
Understanding every aspect of the care sector is too widespread to get into now; I would have to write an entire series to cover it all, and I’m not the best person to effectively comment on everything. I don’t understand it all. What I can discuss is this; is adoption important?
Adoption itself is a process that lays every part of yourself bare, both for the parent and for the child. As an adoptive parent, I had to be checked, double-checked, and triple-checked; references, interviews, discussions about my views, relationship history, and interests. I kept nothing back, and the social worker assigned to conduct the report became both a confessor for me and an auditor of me – was I suitable to be a parent? Various people believed I was, and a long time later, my son came home.
Children are put into care for a variety of reasons, but some things remain constant; the search for love, commitment, and acceptance. A child looks for people who say, “I accept you for who you are, and you’re safe with me. I love you.” I accepted all of those facts as just a fundamental part of my life; children in care are often uncertain, unsure of those same principles, and worried about what the future might hold (to put it mildly).
Good foster carers are worth their weight in gold by any measurable standard; if they look after children long term, that child becomes part of the family, and those self-same foster carers will work hard to make sure the child knows how much they are cared for. The same goes for good quality residential homes; it can be a different experience living there as opposed to a family home, but children can still thrive if those fundamental emotional needs are met – and everyone is working for the same cause.
I chose to adopt rather than foster or work in a residential home because I wanted to be dad; there aren’t any wages for being a parent, adoptive or otherwise, but you are the person with all the parental rights, responsibilities, and privileges – you sign the forms, set the routine, get your child into school, and help them grow. It’s a huge privilege.
There are so many misconceptions about adoption; I’m a single man, and the number of times people have asked me (or, sometimes, my mum when they’re strangely worried about my reaction to the question), “Are you sure you’re allowed to adopt as a single man?” I’ve had someone tell me that they don’t agree with the law that allows single men to adopt, and people – when I’m out with my son – sometimes ask, “Is mum at home today?”
Men can adopt with the same ease as women; that is, with a lot of work being done in order to make sure they’re suitable to be a parent. It’s the same principle with same-sex couples; there’s no difference between them being assessed and a heterosexual couple. Perceptions, of course, are a different thing, and I accept that; perceptions of a child being out with a dad doesn’t seem quite right unless there’s a mum-shaped hole filled with my non-existent wife being at work or at home.
There are strange perceptions, and some people consider adoption only after trying the “birth” route; that’s not a criticism, by the way, merely a point. But there will be perceptions in all parenting styles out there, and there’s something much more important at stake; what the child needs.
There are thousands of children in care; many of them will stay in foster care or residential, but that’s because it’s right for them. But a lot of children are ready to be adopted, and need to be loved, cared for, and cherished beyond measure – but the number of adoptive parents is waning and not at the same level as the number of children needing adoptive parents.
Becoming a father has been one of the most joyous moments in my entire life; I adore it. It’s really exhausting, all-consuming, and intrusive (especially when I am often asked what Bryan’s history is – and I never give it, mostly because it’s his story to tell, and there has been sadness in his life, but he doesn’t want every single person to know his entire life history). You’re not doing a child “a favour” by adopting them; you are embracing them into your life and making a new life together – a family who loves and cherishes each other. It can be hard, because of that history of issues in the child’s life – and yes, that history can’t be forgotten about or overwritten, but needs to be accepted and welcomed into your own home so they can continue to heal.
Bryan has siblings, and I am fortunate to have become friends with their adoptive parents. They are a huge support to me, more than they could possibly know, and I respect them so much; you do get to learn who you can rely on and trust in your network of friends and contacts – help often comes from the most unexpected quarter.
Adoption is worth it. A child with a disrupted past is absolutely worth investing in; more than that, they deserve investing in. I love my son; I guarantee that I love him as much as I would love a son who was biologically mine. He is brilliant, funny, interesting, and clever, and I’ve learnt so much from him.
If you ever can adopt, then do it; don’t worry about the perceptions of others, or the work involved in becoming adoptive parents – every second is worth it.