Hide me!

Colin and Greig

Colin: We have been living as a couple for approximately five years. We applied to adopt jointly as a couple about nine months ago. Our civil partnership is in August. I’m 30 and Greig is 32.

 

Adopting is the same process whether you’re straight or gay. We’ve just been given some books from our social worker and one, Becoming Dads by Pablo Fernandez, is a diary of a couple going through the adoption process – but they live in England and we live in Tayside, so as great as it is, it’s not 100% tailored to the process we’re going through. A lot of the emotional side is the same though.

 

Greig: The social worker has also given us Lesbian and Gay Fostering and Adoption, Building the Bonds of Attachment, Talking about adoption to your adopted child and A child’s journey through placement [See p 212].

 

Colin: I have always wanted to have children. Growing up I expected to be a father and always looked forward to this. I started to consider it seriously about seven years ago.

 

Greig: You always know that you want to be part of a family. That didn’t change when I knew I was gay.

 

Colin: We started thinking properly about applying to adopt, about three years ago.

In my previous relationship, in my early 20s, I talked about it with my partner but he wasn’t keen. He said he’d think about it but when we split up, he said he’d never wanted kids.

 

Greig: We started talking about it on date four! Not about having children immediately or how we’d have them but if we did get serious, did we both want the same things.

 

Colin: We’ve been together five and a half years now. We did have reservations about having children – about how people would treat a child with gay parents. Would the child be bullied? Would people accept us as a family?

 

Once we realised our concerns were about other people and not our own abilities, we felt much more secure in our decision to have children. There are a lot of children needing loving homes and we feel we can provide this.

 

Greig: Over the years our straight friends said things like, “If you’re wanting kids, I’ll be the ‘oven’ – as long as I’ve had my kids first.”

 

Colin: They didn’t want their first child to be ours.

 

Greig: But then they started saying, “I’d rather have Colin’s child or your child” for one reason or another – and when we looked into surrogacy there seemed to be so many legal loopholes.

 

Colin: The way we understood it, if the egg donor changed their mind, there’s every chance they’d get to keep the child but if there was a different carrier – if someone else gave birth to the child, in a custody fight it was more likely to go in your favour.

That’s all just our understanding, I don’t know if it’s right. But for me, asking a woman to give up her body for nine months is a big ask. Some people still die in childbirth! I didn’t feel justified in asking someone to go through that, just to become an auntie.

 

Greig: In ‘Gay Times,’ it seems to be more about women looking for sperm donors than surrogates for gay men.

 

Colin: And some people, you just wouldn’t want them to be the surrogate, they couldn’t even look after themselves.

 

Greig: I think I’d want to be really strict with a surrogate. It’s like trusting someone with the rest of your lives, your heart’s desire. I’d be checking she’s had her five a day…

 

Colin: …and saying, “That’s your second cigarette!”

 

Greig: It wasn’t for us.

 

Colin: My aunt even offered to have a baby for us. She just likes being pregnant. It was very kind of her but it would have been too odd and by that time, we’d already decided against surrogacy. There’s too much that can go wrong.

 

But it’s always at the back of your mind, meeting a lesbian couple and living next door, bringing up the child together.

 

Greig: Those are the conversations you have at a party.

 

Colin: In 10 years’ time you may not want to live next door.

 

Greig: I think that’s what puts a lot of people off being donors. The couple want to be the parents. They just want your sperm/eggs and then they want you to go away.

 

Colin: Once we decided adoption was what we wanted to do, we looked online. At first we thought you couldn’t adopt jointly as a couple unless you were married, regardless of whether you were gay or straight. You could adopt as a single person but if anything happened to you, technically your partner wouldn’t have any legal rights or responsibilities towards the child. At least, that’s the way I understood it back then. We weren’t engaged at that point.

 

Greig: We got engaged once we’d been going out for three years. We always thought that if we were still together by then, it would mean we’d stay together.

 

Colin: We booked the wedding two years ago. As far as I was concerned, we would get married first and then adopt. That was the plan and we were happy with that. I’m a Catholic and I told my gran that at least one of her grandchildren would get married and then have a child.

 

Greig: Then Colin found out that they had changed the adoption rules so that unmarried couples could apply for joint adoption. When he told me, I couldn’t wait!

 

Colin: I kept saying, “We’ve so much on, we’re getting married” but he was so excited. We found out just before my brother’s wedding, the first weekend in September. Greig phoned up social services in early September and they sent us a questionnaire.

 

Greig: It all happened very quickly initially. I thought it would take a while but we saw a resource worker within about two weeks. Colin was in shock. He kept saying, “I’m fine, I’m fine.” I couldn’t wait.

 

Colin: We had a question and answer meeting, where the resource worker answered the questions we had and explained the adoption process to us in outline. She also had a quick look around the flat.

 

Greig: She asked us what our plans would be for adapting the flat for a child.

 

Colin: I got the impression it was to make sure we met the minimum requirements, like having a bedroom for the child and not having any other major issue she needed to flag up before we went on to the next stage.

 

We briefly discussed some of the other considerations too, like should you change the child’s name, introducing them to family and friends, telling the child they’re adopted.

 

Greig: I think they were trying to suss out whether we would hide information from the child.

 

Colin: And that we were thinking of the best interests of the child and not just ourselves. After explaining everything to us and answering our questions, she asked us if we still wanted to go ahead, if anything she had said had put us off.

 

Greig: The level of commitment, of input expected of you, might put some people off – the level at which social work are going to be looking into your lives.

 

It sounds scary and in depth but at no point did we feel judged or under the spotlight.

 

She was lovely and friendly but she made sure you knew it was not going to be a quick and easy process.

 

Colin: She said she’d look into our childhoods, potentially contact any long-term partners we’d had. I got the impression that was in case you’d been a step parent or your ex had had children.

 

She didn’t mention finances at that stage, apart from asking if we work but she went into the type of children they get up for adoption.

 

We volunteer on the Children’s Panel so we already knew that adopted children could come from disadvantaged backgrounds or have learning difficulties.

 

She said that a lot of people applying to adopt are expecting a new-born bouncing

baby but that’s unlikely to happen. People are not ashamed of having children when they’re teenagers or unmarried any more.

 

Greig: The days of the Magdalene Sisters and people giving away healthy children are gone.

 

Colin: After we said we wanted to proceed she explained a bit more about the next step: that we’d be appointed a social worker who’d take us through the process and then we’d see an adoption panel.

 

We’d need to get medicals. This is usually done by the GP but as Greig has health problems, they’d contact his consultant at the hospital first.

 

Greig: There are strict deadlines once you have been allocated a social worker – six months until your adoption panel – so they wanted to get the medical information in place before they allocated one. Getting the medical information, especially from consultants, can take months.

 

Colin: We were a year ahead of our expected application date anyway, as we were applying before we were married, so that was fine.

 

Greig: I didn’t think we’d be given a child after just six months anyway.

 

Colin: Within a few days, the resource worker sent us a formal application, including forms to get the doctor and consultant to disclose information. The form wasn’t scary…

 

Greig: Maybe six pages? It was self explanatory – it didn’t come with its own pamphlet to explain how to fill it in.

 

Colin: I was shocked but impressed at how short and straightforward it was. (The detailed forms are filled out by social work later). We posted it back within a few days, then they wrote to our GPs to ask for medicals to be done.

 

We didn’t even need to make the appointments. I did ring but they said that social work would write to them. Then they sent us appointment letters.

 

Greig: It was like an MOT at a well person’s clinic – weight, blood pressure, testing your eyes, reflexes, no bloods. My GP said he could fill out most of my questionnaire anyway as I see him every month.

 

Colin: GPs usually charge for those kind of check-ups but social work said they’d pay for it.

 

Greig: They do have targets eg. for weight and heart and if you don’t meet them you have to get them redone or have other checks. So if you fall within normal limits it’s quick and simple but if you don’t, it can take longer.

 

Colin: When the resource worker came to see us, Greig asked if there were any health limitations and she basically said no, as long as you weren’t terminal and could look after a child. Ever since then I’ve always felt the questions were about whether you would be able to cope with a child, how much you could manage, what kind of child you can look after.

 

Greig: I had extra tests on my heart because of my health issue. If you go when you think you’re healthy and you have to have a heart test three times, don’t panic – it may just be that you’re nervous.

 

Colin: I got my medical in a couple of months.

 

Greig: There was more of a delay in my case, I was a month and a half later but that was because my GP was away. I had to phone the surgery a few times. I finally got an appointment but the doctor was new and hadn’t dealt with the forms before so he asked if I could wait ’til my usual GP got back. I did and that was OK but then my form got missed in the handover. They only found it because I chased them.

 

When I finally got in to see my doctor, she was really excited at the thought of the adoption. It’s a small practice and I’m a regular customer so she knows me well, we’ve built up a close relationship.

 

Colin: My GP was really excited too. You’d be surprised. Everyone in my office is so excited and so are my family. I don’t know if it’s because we are so fabulous or so they can say they know a gay couple who are adopting!

If anyone’s worried about being a same sex couple, don’t. So far not one person has said anything negative, not even the bitches who are not backwards at coming forwards with their complaints.

 

Greig: We met the resource worker in September and it was December before we got a letter from social work, inviting us to a training course – a preparation group – which started in January. The only thing that happened in the three months in between was that we had our medicals.

 

Colin: I think they only hold the preparation group every few months so we went even though we didn’t have a social worker yet.

 

There were five couples, very mixed. A couple who had already adopted and were applying for a second child – and hoping it would all go better this time as everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong the first time.

 

There was another couple who’d had a child naturally but were struggling to have a second. They wanted a brother or sister for their daughter and she wanted one too.

 

There was an older couple in their late 40s who’d tried IVF and then gone for fostering. It hadn’t worked. She wasn’t emotionally ready to give a child back.

 

The other couple were doing a long-term fostering placement with a child and social work were putting them through the adoption process. They were about to go to panel.

 

The other couples were at different stages in the process and we were just starting.

 

Greig: I think going to the preparation meetings at the start of the process really helped.

 

Colin: The course was all day for three Saturdays in a row plus two Tuesday evenings in between. Although the letter said it was a training course, the woman who led it said it was more to make you think and to make you realise you’re not going to get what she kept calling a “pink and fluffy” child.

 

Even though we both knew from the Children’s Panel that it was unlikely we’d get a pink and fluffy child, part of me still thought we might be the exception.

 

Greig: She also made it clear that while we may think that we’re there to get a child, they were there to get a child the right family.

 

Colin: A lot of children, especially younger children removed from birth, may come from mothers who were drinking or taking drugs during pregnancy, so the child has foetal alcohol syndrome or other physical or mental health problems.

 

A lot of children come from deprived backgrounds. They may have learning difficulties or global delay syndrome, where they don’t hit the usual milestones. You’ll never have a complete medical history if there’s a choice of three dads or the mother doesn’t give permission.

 

The child might have emotional issues from being passed around – mum, dad, aunties, grandparents, foster carer to foster carer. After eight homes, ten homes, you may tell them they are here with you to stay but they’ll just look at you. It’ll take a long time for them to feel settled.

 

Greig: Attachment is a big thing they touched upon.

 

Colin: A lot of people expect it to be a Hollywood moment, when they see the child, when their eyes meet the child’s across the room and there’s a moment of recognition – but it doesn’t happen like that. There’s no instant bond, like in Annie. It can take weeks, months. And it’s fairly common that the child bonds more quickly with one parent than another.

 

Greig: It was really helpful when other adopters came into the group and said how hard it could be. One woman said it was really hard when the child bonded with her partner first and it took a year before they really bonded with her.

 

Colin: Someone told us that some children may even do better with a same sex couple, with men if they bonded better with men or with lesbians if they felt threatened by men, for example.

 

Greig: The woman pointed out that even when you’re an ‘ordinary’ parent, you have to take every day as it happens.

 

Colin: The head of the adoption team came in with a list of children on her books at that time. She stressed there was no such thing as an average child. At that moment in time, most children on her list to be adopted were aged 3 or 4 but it varied.

 

Greig: They did have a few sibling groups whom they wouldn’t want to break up but after the eldest is seven, it’s almost impossible to adopt. Then they told us about this magazine the children get put in – and a website I don’t want to look at. It sounds like a catalogue, almost.

 

Colin: I think the process up here is that to match you with a child, they look first in your local authority area and if there’s no suitable matches there, after a while they look at a larger area – here it’s the North East Consortium.

 

Greig: Especially if, for the child’s safety, they want them out of their local authority area, they look to the Consortium too.

 

Colin: If that doesn’t work, after a time they put the child’s picture and profile in a catalogue and on the website.

 

Greig: The social workers don’t like doing that but they say it serves a purpose and what’s the alternative?

 

Colin: If we could go through the whole process without seeing that, I’d be much happier.

 

Greig: It sounds dehumanising, this strange catalogue of people.

 

Colin: I suppose it’s just the reality of so many kids looking for a home.

 

Greig: They speak about a ‘tick list’ – that there’s almost a tick list of what you’d consider in a child when you’re adopting. It’s not pleasant but they’re not going to match you up with a child you can’t cope with and you’re not going to want to send a child back.

 

Colin: We said we’d consider a child under 5 and that we’d take up to two siblings, so two children in total.

 

Greig: We didn’t think much about the implications of a child’s health issues until the training group and that’s when we realised we couldn’t manage a child with a high level of disability. It would be too physically demanding with my own health problems.

 

Colin: And I wasn’t sure I could handle a child with extreme ADHD.

 

They ask you if you would consider a child with severe learning difficulties, Down’s Syndrome, a child who’s been abused.

 

There’s very little we think we would rule out at this stage but it all depends on degrees, on how severely affected the child was.

 

The only consideration I had in relation to us being a same sex couple would be age, that a younger child might adapt better to same sex parents than an older child who may have been with parents who were homophobic, or who may have preconceived ideas about wanting a mum and a dad. I know I had preconceived ideas at that age.

 

Greig: We have nephews and nieces under 5 who see us as normal. My niece said something to my sister about two men can’t get married and when my sister said they could, she just shrugged, “Oh, OK then.” Children will accept you as being you if you don’t make a big deal out of it.

 

Colin: The preparation group and the resource worker, they do tell you a lot of worst case scenarios. The couple who were in the preparation group who had adopted before had been told there was a high likelihood of various things happening but none of them had.

 

Greig: And they were adopting again, so it was worth it. They’d also realised that sometimes when things happened, they were thinking, “Is this because this child is adopted?” when actually it was happening because the child was two. It was normal.

 

Colin: Apparently, we’re quite young adopters. Most straight couples try naturally first, then go through IVF, then adopt, so it’s a very long process for them whereas we knew early on that this is the way for us.

 

Colin: The preparation group expanded on what the resource worker had told us about the application process. You get a social worker, then you go to the adoption panel, then you start the selection process. We’re a long way from that yet.

 

Greig: Even if they have a child now that they think we’re perfect for, they can’t mention them because we have not been officially approved.

 

Colin: We were allocated a social worker in March/April.

 

Greig: We got a call saying there was a social worker almost ready for us and that they’d get in touch.

 

Colin: She did and she came to visit us in the flat. She brought a side-kick with her, another social worker. They always come to the first meeting in twos.

 

It was a very general discussion, covering a lot of things we’d discussed before. I think there were two so they could both agree it was appropriate for us to go forward.

 

At the end of the meeting they said that they would be happy to go ahead with the process. We made an appointment with Laura, the one who would be going forward with us, to come round the following week.

 

Then at that meeting, we arranged a series of appointments over the next couple of months, most weeks ’til June. All those visits took place here, around 5pm, so I could fit them round work.

 

Greig: The meetings were mostly just talking, with Laura asking us questions. It didn’t feel as if we were being interviewed, just chatting, covering some of the things we’d discussed with the resource worker.

 

Colin: After a couple of weeks of getting to know us, she asked when we wanted to apply for the panel. It has to be done within six months but you don’t have to wait six months. She thought we would be ready to meet the panel by August.

 

Greig: The next week she came back with a date.

 

Colin: The wedding’s in August, the panel is before. She asked if that was OK.

 

Greig: We didn’t know it then but we should know by the wedding, if we’ve been approved or not.

 

Colin: Up until that point, I thought the panel made the decision on whether you’re approved or not but when we got the date and talked about it, I found out the panel just make a recommendation.

 

Greig: Social work put a recommendation on the forms they fill in – the Adoption and Permanence Form F – and the panel asks you any questions they have. Then they make their recommendation and it’s someone senior in social work who decides.

 

Colin: We haven’t filled out any of the F forms yet. Laura gives us homework on a different topic each week then she fills them in.

 

Greig: The first homework was about our childhood. Family rules, did you go on holiday – she gave us a list of things to talk about and we talked about them and we typed up our answers (I don’t think you have to type them up but we did).

 

She asks you to be in depth and you write up as much as you can. It’s actually quite cathartic to look into yourself.

 

Colin: One week we had to do our family tree, just back to our parents, another time we had to look into our relationship. We did it separately and then we compared what we’d said. It was amazing how much we said in common but there were other bits when it was like, “You don’t really think that do you?”

 

Greig: You can’t think of it as someone being nosy and intruding into your life. It’s about making sure it’s a good match. They’re trying to sell you to the panel.

 

She asked about our weaknesses, too – what do we think they are, what would be put in place to address them.

 

Colin: At the preparation group, they told us a story of a couple in England who adopted a child, then six months down the line a health problem appeared that social work knew might develop, so now the couple were suing…

 

Greig: …which really upset me. If that had been their birth child, who would they sue?

 

Every question they ask about your childhood, your family, your relationships, you might not want to divulge but you have to.

 

Colin: If your dad beat you up every night, you might think, ‘I’m ashamed so I won’t say’ but because you have had that experience, it might make you empathise.

 

Greig: And if you’re going through the adoption process together, as a couple, you need to be honest. You need to know these things about each other or your relationship will fail, your adoption will fail and you’re not acting in the best interests of the child.

 

Colin: I think the social worker is very good at reading between the lines as well.

 

Greig: She’ll ask you questions about your homework, to make sure she gets the true meaning out of it. Not that you’re hiding anything but to be sure she has it.

 

Colin: Though she did say that not every social worker works the same way.

 

Greig: We’re almost at the end of the process now. We’ve done most of the homework. The social work department have typed it up into the forms. Laura just has to speak to our referees.

 

Once you have a social worker, she sends out letters to your employers and personal referees, asking for references.

 

Colin: The personal referees are not allowed to be family members, not here anyway. Both our personal referees are long-term friends.

 

Greig: The personal referees are interviewed, ideally in person but maybe on the phone if they already have enough information about you.

 

Colin: One of our personal referees isn’t local, he lives in Glasgow, so Laura will speak to him by phone.

 

Greig: My employer hasn’t returned his form yet. It’s things like that that can cause delays.

 

Colin: Deciding who to ask to be a personal referee took some thought. We have friends who have children and others who don’t, some live more locally than others. In the end we decided on two people who don’t have children but who know us well. They have seen us with our nephews and nieces and one of them knows me from working with children.

 

Greig: There are questions on the personal referee form which our friend says it’s hard to answer because we’re not parents yet, like how we might be on discipline. But if you don’t know, it’s OK to say so.

 

Colin: We have been allowed to see all the references which have come back so far. My boss has been great. He filled the form in straightaway.

 

Greig: Mine has had three reminders and still nothing but he’s like that with everything.

 

Colin: Once social work has filled in Form F, based on our homework, we’ll get to see that too and amend it if we want to, before it goes off to the panel.

 

When we move, we want a nice area to bring kids up in, where they won’t go, “Oh, there’s the gay couple with the kid.” It’s only six years since Greig was getting death threats in the post for being gay.

 

Greig: It was on an estate. There were 300 letters being sent to my community every day. The neighbours in the street who knew me were horrified. They came round and said, “I had this put through my door early this morning” and they were very supportive but it was an awful time. CID were involved.

 

Colin: Our current flat is great for a couple. It’s really central and we have gay and straight neighbours. The problem is there’s only one bedroom.

 

Greig: That would become the child’s bedroom and there’s a space for us in the living area but it would be open plan, so not ideal.

 

Colin: We’re on the council’s housing list and a couple of housing associations, so we’re looking.

 

We’re registered with them as a couple at the moment but once we’ve been approved for adoption, they’ll take that into consideration. We’ve already started packing. We’re renting so if we find somewhere, we might have to move very quickly.

 

Greig: Once we’ve been approved, it could be two weeks or two years until we’re matched with a child, maybe longer.

 

Colin: Emotionally the process has been ups and downs as we get excited then try not to get our hopes up, then get excited again. We are trying to be realistic but at the same time, little fantasies about how family life can be do play in our heads. The emotional roller coaster, I imagine, is the same as for any couple trying to adopt, straight or gay.

 

Social work have been fantastic and at no point have we felt awkward/ discriminated against.

 

Colin: Don’t be scared by all the worst case scenarios.

 

Greig: Be open with your social worker and each other. Be aware of your own limitations. Don’t be too eager to say yes when it comes to the tick list – be realistic.

 

Colin: Decide what’s right for you as a person and as a couple, rather than for your family and friends.

 

Greig: Make sure the time’s right for you. We’ve got quite a bit on at the moment but it’s working out fine. We’re planning the wedding but we’re planning a future at the same time.

 

Colin: Look at the application process as a positive. All the questions a social worker asks, they’re all questions I would want to ask if I had to give my child to an adopter.

I found the process very therapeutic, talking about myself and the past and seeing what your referees think of you! Rather than making us feel like we’re being assessed about whether we will/will not be allowed to adopt, I feel like we’re being assessed on what our strengths/weaknesses are and therefore what kind of child we can provide a home for.

 

Greig: Don’t get hung up on the idea that some people can just have sex and have a child. When you have to jump through hoops, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a child.

 

Colin: Although the process may seem slow – we applied in September and the panel’s in August – the pace has been right for us. Prepare for it to be a lengthy process, in which every aspect of your life will be looked at. We went into it knowing that and the whole adoption process has so far been very enjoyable.

Postscript

Since this interview, Greig and Colin’s panel meeting has been postponed, awaiting paperwork from Greig’s employer.

Andrew

I first became aware that I wanted children two years ago, when I was in my early 20s. My partner and I are in the process of moving to a bigger house to begin the adoption process. We got our information from forums, social services and the Glasgow adoption website.

 

If you want something badly enough go after it, no matter the barriers that people, government, or society put in your way.

Alfie

As a gay man I always assumed that children would be out of my reach so I never really thought much about having them. I think that the first time I thought seriously about it was when a very good friend of mine (one half of a lesbian couple) approached me to become a sperm donor.

Nuno

I met my partner when I was 22 and soon afterwards started talking to him about adopting children.

 

When I was 26/27, I started considering adoption more seriously, gathering information from websites and by talking to people who knew more about it and had even adopted themselves. After hearing the stories of several adoptive parents and how their decisions were life-changing, my partner and I reached the decision to adopt and embark in this marvellous adventure.

 

We eventually applied to adopt in Germany (where we were living at the time), but it didn’t work out, neither through state social services, nor through private agencies.

 

We then moved to the UK where we applied through Manchester City Council in 2007 and, after a short period of training, we carried out the interview and assessment procedure.

 

In 2011 we finally met our children, a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, siblings who were placed with us for adoption in September 2011. The court adoption orders were issued in June 2012.

 

We cannot say it’s been a completely smooth process, but it has surely been a worthwhile one. The assessment is a time-consuming exercise, but it also offered us the opportunity to reflect about our lives, where we come from, who we are, and what we still wish to accomplish in life.

 

Meeting our children and then starting to live with them and forming a family has not been problem-free either. It requires a lot of patience and preparation, and a strong commitment and willingness to change one’s lifestyle and priorities.

 

Yet, having children undoubtedly gives a new and better meaning to our lives, and no matter if our children are biological or adopted, one is bound to have to deal with challenging moments. I would, therefore, encourage anyone thinking about having children to strongly consider adopting!

 

The amount of bureaucracy and the time the whole process takes is rather exhausting and trying, but I now consider it necessary to test one’s determination. If one isn’t willing to go through that, then one isn’t probably prepared to deal with what comes afterwards!

 

Emotionally it’s been very exhausting too. The whole adoption process requires plenty of self-reflection and compromising with one’s partner. Once the children arrive, patience and energy levels are constantly put to the test. One’s relationship is also strained to the limit.

 

Our experience has showed me that all the training and interview process definitely needs to be taken seriously. No matter how much one prepares, one will always be taken to one’s limits, so it’s better to invest a lot during the preparation stage.

 

All the paperwork and emotional difficulties were overcome with plenty of energy, patience, determination and communication with my partner: adopting requires plenty of all of these.

 

Make sure this is really for you, because the more you get into it, the harder it is to get out afterwards. If this is really what you want, don’t give up, it’s all worth it at the end. Get ready for a bumpy ride.

Anonymous V

I’ve always wanted children. We actively started trying to become parents around four years ago.

 

Our first choice was to adopt, as we felt that there were already so many children out there who needed a loving home. Unfortunately, we experienced pretty full on discrimination in the adoption process and after a year of being fobbed off, our paperwork being repeatedly ‘lost’ and general messing about, we were told outright that no-one would ever want to place a child with us.

 

We are now trying to conceive through IVF and there’s no reason to think that we won’t be successful, but we do still wonder about the children who we should have been parents to and feel sad.

 

There are so many children out there who need parents and yet we were prevented from offering them a home. It makes me angry that social workers who are supposed to be helping these children, actually prevented them from being placed in a loving, stable family.

Jo II

My civil partner is Scottish but we live in England.

 

Our first son, born to my partner by an anonymous, identity release American donor in 2006, was later adopted by me. [Identity-release or open-identity sperm donors are willing to have their identity released to adult offspring]. Our second son by the same donor was born to myself earlier this year. We are not planning to try for any more children ourselves though would consider adoption or long term fostering in future.

 

My partner had about six intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments followed by two in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments, then a very problematic pregnancy. I had one operation and four IVFs, followed by my pregnancy, which seemed straight forward compared to our first son.

 

We became civil partners while my partner was pregnant. I changed my surname after that. At that time, I could not be named as the second parent on the birth certificate so I adopted our first son. By the time our second son was born, the law had changed and we are both parents on the birth certificate.

 

Emotionally, when treatment does not work for long periods, it is very difficult. It put strain on our relationship with friends who had no difficulty having children.

 

When you go to a clinic the process is very medical from the start. Many of the processes have unpleasant side effects or are painful and involve taking time off work at short notice. It is all quite stressful. The treatment process was very demanding physically, emotionally and financially, but we feel very lucky to have two wonderful sons.

 

The huge financial cost has given us about £20k additional debt, which makes our finances very tight.

 

We have a very strong relationship and quickly learnt to seek support from friends and family.

 

My advice? Don’t put everything else on hold whilst trying to have your family.

Lorna

I’m a gay woman, living with a partner. I realised I wanted children two years ago. Was deemed too old at 45 for fertility treatment. In the process of adopting.

Meryl

I was in a stable relationship in England and we looked together at how to have a baby. It took 10 years for me to find out that I could not get pregnant. I tried home insemination with two donors, a clinic for sperm and hospital investigations.

 

The hospital ethics committee made the decision that I could not get IVF on the NHS as I was a lesbian and they would not allow me to pay for it within the hospital.

I finally tried to get pregnant by having sex with a man in a toilet, which left me feeling I had gone as far as I could. I had to face the fact that I would not have a baby.

 

My friend talked me into allowing her to have a baby for me, which she did and I now have a son. We followed the surrogate process. I gained parental responsibility and when he was over a year old I registered to adopt him. We believe we were actually the first in the North West – my son says, in the country!

 

My ex-partner was not out when my son was a baby and I refused to have him live with anyone who would deny his relationship or mine, or let him see any sense of shame for who we were or how we lived.

 

This was resolved when my partner changed jobs and came out. We then lived as a family and she adopted him once the law allowed. I had a lot of emotional difficulty with my partner’s adoption but ended this by seeing that it made a lot of difference to my son. We all changed our name so we have the same name. We separated but still share in his life.

 

I guess the emotional context is the incredible despair I was feeling through all the years I could not conceive. And of course the absolute joy when I held him in my arms, having watched him be born. Though I still have a sense of loss for not being pregnant.

 

The surrogacy process, health professionals, social services for the adoption and the legal process could have been fraught with discrimination but my fears were unfounded as they were all excellent.

 

The one thing I did learn was to be careful of solicitors fees – sadly learnt too late! The solicitor cost about £2,000 – the court process for parental responsibility. Social services assessment for adoption court cost £75. I was financially a single parent until he was about 5. We lived in a house with no central heating but we got through it.

 

Of course the process continues. I decided in the beginning to be honest at all times with my son and at each agency we meet in our lives. We have been ‘lucky,’ or maybe honesty prevents discrimination…

 

The next step is secondary education. I do have anxiety about the amount of people who will now have to be in our lives. I am lucky as other people have led the way and the school has several children with same sex parents.

 

Our situation is complicated by us being separated but my son has half-brothers at the school from his birth mother’s family (we are still very close) and from his birth dad’s new family. He calls them brothers and has a good relationship with them which, I think, gives him confidence and me some feeling of security for him.

 

From my family’s point of view, my mum was a little doubtful but they have all treated him as my child and I have had no difficulties.

Adoption

The following information is adapted by the Equality Network from articles by Peter Murrin, solicitor in the Family Law Unit at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP

 

Background

On 31 July 2011, 16,171 children in Scotland were in the care of local authorities. The largest grouping (37 per cent) was that of children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old and the second largest was between the ages of 12 and 15 years old (32 per cent).

 

In the year 2009-10 only 466 adoption orders were granted. Of that number 103 were children between the ages 5 and 9, and 7 were between the ages 10 and 14. The majority of the adoptions were by male / female couples, with only 12 being by same-sex couples (8 female / female and 4 male / male).

 

Adoption and fostering represents an avenue for those couples who cannot have their own, to bring children into their lives and to give them a home as well as love, care and support. More same-sex couples now consider adoption for these reasons, and as more adoption agencies actively promote the availability of adoption to same-sex families, it is worth reviewing what is required to adopt.

 

What is adoption?

The current adoption law in Scotland is found in the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 (the “2007 Act”).

 

Adoption is the legal process through which a new and permanent family life can be provided to a child who cannot be cared for by their birth parents or biological family.

 

A court order transfers parental responsibilities and rights (the responsibilities to the child and rights of the parent in respect of the child) from the birth parents to the adoptive parents. What this means is that the person adopted is thereafter treated as the child of the adoptive parents in the eyes of the law.

 

When deciding whether to make an adoption order a court must have regard to the whole circumstances of the case but specifically shall regard the safeguarding and promotion of the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration. Other considerations will include (but will not be limited to) the child’s views (where appropriate, having regard to age and maturity), religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background as well as the value of the stable family unit in the child’s development. In essence, everything that is relevant will be taken into consideration.

 

The process

There is no shortage of adoption agencies in Scotland and in most cases the process begins with a simple enquiry. Many adoption agencies are charities such as Barnardo’s or The Scottish Adoption Association (Edinburgh and the Lothians) but most operate on behalf of local authorities. Glasgow City Council’s agency is Families for Children while Dundee City Council’s Change Their Lives provides good advice and assistance for applicants in that region.

 

Exact details can vary slightly between agencies so individual experiences may differ slightly from what follows but, substantively, the process is uniform. Following the applicant’s enquiry there will be a meeting with the agency. The purpose of this is to exchange information and will hopefully enable an application which will be assessed by a social worker.

 

The assessment process will include visits to the applicant’s home by the social worker (usually six times), medical history checks, a medical examination and a background check. Three character references are also usually taken. It is generally expected that the process will take a minimum of six months following which the social worker will prepare a Prospective Adopters Report with the applicants. During the period, applicants will often be invited to attend parenting classes and workshops designed to prepare the adoptive parents for the step they are about to take and to familiarise them with common problems which may arise as a result of the change that will take place in their lives.

 

The applicant will then be invited to attend an adoption panel meeting which will recommend either to approve the applicant or not based on the report and the applicant’s circumstances.

 

It is worth pointing out that it can take time to be matched with a suitable child – couples will often have preferences in terms of age ranges and the agency will have a duty to ensure that the match of parent to child is suitable.

 

This can be a frustrating period for the applicant(s) having spent several months in the assessment process. Once the child is found by the agency, a further meeting is held between the agency and the applicants and a report is made by the agency to the adoption panel which will, in turn, make its recommendation on whether the placement should be made.

 

Following on from that, a series of meetings between the child and the now prospective adopters will usually occur (often in the company of the child’s foster carers) to allow the child and the prospective adopters to get to know one another. If all goes well, the child will then move in with prospective adopters. Once that living arrangement has subsisted for a number of weeks (10 weeks is quoted by some agencies), the prospective adopters may apply to the court for the adoption order in respect of the child. It should be kept in mind that a child’s parent or guardian with parental rights and responsibilities can contest the adoption up to the point where an order is applied for. Nevertheless, once an adoption order is granted by the court, the child legally becomes a part of their adoptive family.

 

There is no doubting that the process can seem arduous and even frustratingly formal but the welfare of the child is paramount and the purpose is to create a permanent family arrangement. The benefits to the prospective parent and child are beyond measure.

 

Who can adopt?

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not barriers to adoption but are circumstances which will be taken into account in the ‘whole circumstances’ of the case. The 2007 Act allows for single people, married couples, couples in a civil partnership and cohabiting couples (mixed-sex or same-sex) to adopt. With high profile same-sex couples adopting and raising children, social attitudes surrounding what does and what should constitute a family unit are undoubtedly changing.

 

The minimum age for applicants is 21 and there is no upper age limit. However, agencies and the adoption panel will take this into account, alongside health and well-being, as part of the assessment process. Being disabled, overweight or having an illness do not preclude an applicant and agencies will often suggest that an applicant discusses the demands and expectations of adoption with an adopter with similar circumstances (Adoption UK’s PAL service is one facility which has a particular focus on this area).

 

Finance is obviously important for many families. An applicant does not need to be wealthy or a homeowner to adopt. However, it will obviously be necessary to show how a child would be supported going forward. An applicant will be asked to show that there is adequate space and means to care for the child although in some cases assistance from a local authority will be available.

 

Adoption leave

In terms of leave and payment, the rights in respect of adoption mirror those of maternity. An adopter (or one member of a couple who adopt jointly) may, if they meet the eligibility criteria, take up to 52 weeks adoption leave (made up of 26 weeks ordinary leave and 26 weeks additional leave). Statutory adoption pay will also be available for a maximum of 39 weeks and is currently (2013-14) paid at the rate of £136.78 per week (although some employers may offer better as part of the terms of an individual’s contract). An adopter will be eligible for said leave and pay where they are newly matched for adoption through a recognised adoption agency and where they have been in continuous employment, with their employer, for a period of 26 weeks (ending with the week in which they are notified of the match).

 

The other member of a couple who are adopting jointly may be eligible for paternity leave or additional paternity leave – despite the terminology, the leave is available to same-sex female couples as well as men – if they meet the required criteria.

Mo

I’ve always wanted children. I’m from a big family, I’m close to my parents, all my siblings and nieces and nephews. I have a great relationship with my partner’s family, as she has with mine.

 

We considered having children for many years. More often wondering, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have children?’ than serious discussions. We only really started thinking about it when civil partnerships become a possibility – and then when we were married.

 

We’d been together for 14 years before then, and finally we could say we were married, or in a civil partnership – rather than just ‘living with a partner.’ We needed security for our children.

 

With civil partnerships, there was the possibility of adopting jointly. I would not have considered having children without this. It was extremely important that we could adopt jointly. I suppose because of acceptance and security – not within our very long term relationship, but within society in general. We like being married!

 

We became more confident and talked seriously about adopting. We approached Coram , an adoption charity in London, shortly after our civil partnership and after a few meetings, went through the approval process.

 

When we met Coram, we knew it was right for us. Our families were initially worried, for different reasons. They worried (as I did for a long time before deciding to adopt) how children would feel having two mums, and the reaction of other parents and children. There was also the worry for the two of us, around adoption itself.

 

I was also concerned we’d take children needing families from couples who couldn’t have birth children. This was more than a little naive – there are so many children who need families – particularly ‘hard to place’ and older children.

 

We never seriously considered any other way of having a family – adoption felt right.

We were extremely lucky and adopted our two boys, then aged five and six years, soon after being approved as adopters. Our boys have two parents, two mums. We have two great boys – now aged 10 and 11.

 

The process of adoption, the stresses and changes, was staggering. Family has been supportive. Friends, too, very much so. I feel even closer to my family since we adopted.

 

I hope many other gay couples seriously consider adoption. It is a great option – but not easy. Very hard work. It’s worth it. Adoption is a blessing and a joy, most of the time.

 

Adoption tested a relationship we thought was rock solid, particularly in the first 12 months after suddenly becoming mothers to two young boys. We were lucky to have a firm and strong relationship – we’ve known each other since university days – but it was so hard at times we thought we would never feel like a family.

We couldn’t be more of a family now, I don’t think. The boys have our mannerisms, and we theirs. They’ve grown with us, and through us. I can’t imagine not being a mum now.

 

Our children’s schools have been great and we’ve had no concerns or problems with other parents. Our boys’ friends either don’t know or don’t care about what or who’s at home.

 

Our particular circumstances are not an issue, either when living in London, or since moving to Glasgow two years ago. We were a little worried if Glasgow might be accepting – but I’m delighted to say, Glasgow’s not let us down! No bother at all – and plenty of friendly parents.

 

Our boys still show the effects of their early losses and traumas, and there’s a general lack of understanding and support, I feel, around this for adoptive parents.

But our children are amazing! Hard work and with problems, as many adopted children have – but thriving.

 

They are “a pleasure and a treasure,” as we always tell them.