As part of New Family Social’s LGBTQ+ Adoption and Fostering Week 2023, we spoke to parents, Richard and John Paul, who adopted with the support of ARC Adoption in 2021. Here they answer some questions for us, sharing their experience of adoption. 

Hello Richard and John Paul, could you give us a brief introduction to your family?

We’re John Paul (40) and myself, Richard (39), and have been together coming up 17 years and married just over five years. We started the adoption process with ARC in January 2020 and we brought our daughter home in June 2021. She was 22 months at the time and is now three and a half.

We bet she is keeping you on your toes! Could you tell us about your decision to adopt? Is it something you considered for a long time?

I had always wanted to have children since we first got together but John Paul didn’t want children at all.  We talked about it now and again and as we got older John Paul slowly started to change his mind.  It was in part of getting older and once we were married our relationship just naturally developed where we thought was something missing.  Other friends and family were having children and then we realised that’s what it was. 

For us, we’d done the big holidays, the nights out and both starting looking more seriously at whether adopting was definitely right for both of us.  It’s hard to say what exactly it was but, in our head and hearts we just knew when we were ready to start the process.

How did you come to choose the adoption agency to support you?

When we made the decision to have a family, we initially looked at surrogacy, and while we know people that have since gone down that route, we quickly knew that it wasn’t for us.  Then after that we met with a local authority, but because John Paul had recently changed jobs, they wanted us to wait for six months.  During these six months we did more research and looked into different authorities and other types of agencies. 

In January 2020 we made a call to ARC Adoption, which turned out to be the best call that we made. When we met with ARC, we just found that we were give much more information about the process overall, as in what to expect from training and within the two stages, time frames, post adoption care etc.  Everyone that we met from our initial interest onwards have been so warm, welcoming, friendly and professional, and nothing has been a bother for anyone, which has reinforced that we made the right decision with going with ARC.

How did you find going through the adoption process?

At times we found the process intense and sometimes a little overwhelming - we went through a full range of emotions.  However, when we did feel bit overwhelmed by it, everyone at ARC was really supportive and helped us understand the ‘what’s and whys.’ No question was ever thought of as stupid and I asked a lot – they were amazing at putting our minds at ease and making everything clearer. 

We started Stage One of the process before COVID so luckily had the first training sessions in person and got to make friends with other couples, who we still speak to now. Stage One of the process mainly involved filling out paper work, getting medicals and starting our initial training days training, which were perfect for work as always done over a weekend. 

Then once we started Stage Two, everything was locked down due to the pandemic. It was a little strange not to meet our social worker face to face properly for months, but as we’d never done it another way it still felt normal at the same time.  In Stage Two every part of our lives was carefully looked into to make sure we were suitable to adopt, and by the end we think our social worker knew more about us than anyone else.  Everything was spilt into weekly sessions, and we had a timetable for what was happening and when.

The hardest part was waiting for the final report to be written and the nerves of going to the approval panel to see if we could adopt. It didn’t matter how many times we were told ‘you wouldn’t get this far if they didn’t think you’d pass.’  We were given the questions that were going to be asked the night before, so nothing was there to trick us, and nothing being asked was something that we didn’t already know the answers to.  On the morning of the panel everyone introduced themselves and they were all lovely and helped put us at ease. It was over in a flash, with a great result!

We hear many similar stories from our adopters about panel - we're always so pleased when it's not as traumatic as our families think it will be! How did you then find the family finding process?

Our family finding wasn’t a straight forward journey. We had a few false starts with each one being a little bit heart-breaking while at same time making us more determined to find ‘our child.’

Sometimes it was hard looking at profiles of children and trying to get the balance of head and heart right, as sometimes I would read a profile and my heart would be saying ‘I need to bring them home’ and John Paul would be thinking more practically saying ‘no this child isn’t right for us’ and then other times it was the other way round. We were lucky to have each other, and our social worker was also the voice of reason at times and helped guide us in the right direction.

Once a match was identified with our daughter, things started to happen quickly. A rough plan was developed and while things didn’t always go as scheduled, and it continued to be nerve wracking, we got there in the end. Even when it was going well, we would worry and start doubting if we were right for her or good enough to be her parents, but the ARC team and especially our social worker were always there to calm us, and get us back on track and help with any worries and doubt that we had.

Can you tell us a little about meeting your daughter?

The first time we met our daughter we travelled to where she was living with the foster carers and had a ‘bump into meeting’ at her local park.  We were just there to observe her and to meet the foster carers properly. We couldn’t stop smiling and it was so emotional watching her. Once we had seen her in real life, we both knew that she was our daughter and were hit with a wave of love.  After that we had a few video calls with them all, before spending a week in the foster carers home to get used to each other and learn our daughters routine. Each day we’d do more and more and the foster carers would do less and less.  After a week she then started coming to our home spending more time getting used to us our flat, and we brought plenty of her belongings along too that she found familiar and comforting.  I always the remember the first night at home, once we finally got her to sleep, we just watched her thinking ‘What have we done - can we keep her alive?!’ Neither of us slept that night so we could just keep checking on her, and we were knackered by the time she woke up.  For first few weeks it was hard as we were all still getting used to each other, but each day it did get easier and eventually she was so settled it felt like she’d always been with us.

What have been the best things about adopting your daughter and becoming parents?

The joy and happiness that she has brought into not just our lives, but our families as well, is endless - we can’t put it into words.  As a couple and individuals, it has brought us closer and has made us feel complete. 

Some of the best things we’ve found are just all the small things like watching and helping her learning and growing into the happy, loving, caring independent little girl she is.  When we come in from work and she is so excited to see us, screaming daddy or dad, and then running and jumping onto us for kisses and cuddles is amazing. She loves a family cuddle and says ‘I love you’ and ‘you’re my family’ when the three of us are cuddling. 

We also are loving seeing her little personality come out, and how she has no filter and will embarrass us at drop of a hat.

We think there’s probably a lot more of that to come! On the other side, what have been the most challenging things you’ve experienced?

One of the most challenging aspects we found was the first few weeks after she moved home.  We were all trying to adapt to each other, and she was still wanting her foster carers when upset, tired or when waking during the night.  Some of those things she adapted to more quickly than others but for all three of us it was stressful, emotional and at times overwhelming, but got through it together just one day at a time, and it got easier without us even noticing. 

When John Paul went back to work and I was home alone with her it was scary, having again to adapt to new roles when we had all just got used to each other.  We didn’t always know what we were doing but again we took it day by day. Some things didn’t work but having the support of ARC, our social worker and support network were all invaluable. 

Other things that we’ve found challenging aren’t adoption related in the slightest - surviving the terrible twos, the threenagers, having no sleep, toilet training, ending the nap and getting rid of the dummy.  Basically, what everyone with a child of that age goes through. It’s always nice to have friends with kids of a similar age too, to help with advice and also to have a little moan and groan about it, so you know you’re not alone.

Have you accessed any post adoption support provided by ARC?

We know that ARC offers amazing post adoption support and we’ve been lucky not to have to reach out for anything major, but we know it is always available if and when we need it.  Things that we do take advantage of as often as we can are activity days, and the big annual Christmas Party. The activity days are a chance to have a fun day out, at a farm or other setting, where we can meet with other adopters that we have made friends with on training, as well as the ARC team, and for our daughter to mix with other children and adoptive families.

We know it can be scary for adoptive parents to think about contact with their children’s birth relatives. Could you tell us about your experiences, and why it’s important to you?

After five months of our daughter moving in with us, John Paul and I met her birth mother and birth father, and in a separate meeting we met her paternal grandmother. These meetings were supported by our social workers and beforehand we were extremely anxious, scared and nervous but also a little excited.  We had read all of the reports on them, and had already formed an opinion but after meeting them these opinions were completely changed. It was very easy to talk to them, learning a bit more about them and seeing a different side to what is covered within the reports.

We think it’s important that when our daughter is older, we can share that we have met them, and give her another view and perspective on her birth family. We also took the decision to share photos and videos with her birth relatives, and we think it was helpful for them to hear and see that she is happy and healthy. It also gave a good foundation for future contact, which we do via letter, twice a year.  In these, we share an update on how she is getting on, anything she has done, along with her likes and dislikes, and within these letters we also include photos, drawings or crafts. 

Everyone has an opinion on sending letters and how much to include, but the way we view it is that it’s all done for her, and it’s an opportunity for when she is older to see a snapshot of her life every six months as she grows.

That is really interesting to hear and will give other prospective adopters food for thought too, thank you. We are always looking for new adoptive parents for children. What would you say to anyone considering adoption to grow their family?

To anyone that is thinking about or considering adoption, we’d say to go and do an information event, ask some questions and get as much information as you can.  You’ll get a feeling if it is right for you, and if you’re a couple it’ll especially help you to see if you are on the same page. If you’re anything like us, it will be the best thing you’ve ever done!

We would also definitely recommend other LGBTQI+ people, and in fact anyone who wished to adopt, to use ARC. Everyone is just warm, welcoming, friendly and extremely non-judgmental. At no point did we ever feel like we were treated any differently to anyone else, and we were never made to feel uncomfortable.  While we’ve never used the post adoption services that are available, just knowing that they are there if we need them is like an invisible safety blanket we never knew we needed.

Thank you so much to Richard and John Paul for sharing their experience with us. If you are interested in finding out more about the children in need of adoption and the support available from ARC, please do get in touch with us for a friendly chat, or book onto one of our upcoming information events.