We've learned a lot about ourselves

Every family who wants to adopt has to find an adoption agency to assess and approve them. David and Ricardo adopted Maria and Matthew seven years ago, but still clearly recall those early days – as Sophie Offord finds out.

Storytime

One day in February, back in 2002, David and his male partner Ricardo made the momentous step that would lead them to forming the family they so desperately wanted.

They wrote to three adoption agencies, and one replied, asking them to go along to an information evening. A couple of meetings and a seminar later, and the agency agreed to start assessing them.

The assessment period consisted of 18 four-hour interviews over several months. David concedes that this was an intense and fully engaging time. Both he and Ricardo were working full time at that point, and all this happened during working hours. However, contrary to many people’s expectations of the adoption process, David didn’t find the assessment particularly long or frustrating.

“Perhaps, as a male couple, we came to it with different expectations,” he considers. “Many other carers we spoke to had already spent years trying to become pregnant. Adoption was our first choice, our starting point, so we were fresh and full of energy!”

Their social worker also helped them understand why the assessment had to be so thorough. “You are being evaluated, and you sometimes feel judged, but we learned a lot about ourselves and the sort of children we could care for successfully.”

Most families only start searching for children once they have been approved to adopt. The child’s agency will usually take the application more seriously, as there will be fewer delays. However, David and Ricardo were encouraged early on by their social worker to look through Be My Parent and make enquiries about a couple of children to ‘test the water’…

“We immediately saw Maria and Matthew. Ricardo had a sort of intuition about them: an emotional reaction. I wasn’t particularly moved by the profile or photo, but I had a practical, logical response. We were looking for a boy and a girl. We were flexible on age, but ideally wanted children under three, and Maria was nearly three, and Matthew around 18 months. Given our ethnicities (Ricardo is black Brazilian and I am white Danish), we also noticed that Maria and Matthew shared a birth mother of mixed ethnicity, but had different fathers. Matthew was this blonde, blue-eyed little boy,
while Maria presented as black, like Ricardo. The children matched all our criteria!”

Although the children’s social worker initially said ‘no’, the agency eventually got back in touch to agree the suitability of the match. So when David and Ricardo went to panel to be approved in February 2003, a year after the process first began, these two children were very much in their mind.

“We were excited and confident,” says David, although he admits to a little nervousness too. “There were a lot of people in the room and some of the questions were hypothetical and hard to answer. A doctor asked how we’d handle certain situations in the teenage years, which seemed so far away then!”

But the couple were successfully approved, and a month later went to matching panel to be linked with Maria and Matthew.

Looking back over seven years, David is positive but not idealistic. He lets me know that the first couple of years, in particular, were hard. Maria displayed a lot of rejecting behaviour and many people in their support network weren’t based in the UK or slowly drifted away once David and Ricardo adopted…

However, the couple made changes: they modified their working hours, built up their friendship group, and secured some therapeutic support for Maria.

David now sounds incredibly moved and fulfilled when talking about his family. “We’ve loved watching them grow into beautiful, brilliant, creative, loving, accomplished children,” he says, unable to hide his pride. “I was adopted myself and really relish passing on what I was given – a secure, stable home, full of love and support.”

All names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.

Seven years ago, only one person in an unmarried couple could be the legal adopter of a child – in this case, David. The law is very different now and in England, Wales and Scotland, same-sex couples can adopt jointly.

Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in November 2009.

This article is published with the kind permission of the people involved. You may download it for your own reference but if you wish to use it for any other purpose, please contact Be My Parent for authorisation: Be My Parent, BAAF, Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Telephone: 020 7421 2666.

Last updated: 30 April 10

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