Cliff, a single, black teacher, describes his experience of adopting two dual heritage boys.
I have three brothers, two of whom were adopted by my mum and dad. I had always wanted to adopt children myself and thought I would do it after having my own children. That was before I realised I was gay. I was asked by a good female friend to have a child with her and I went to counselling with her and had medical tests, but in the end I dropped out as I wanted to be a full-time father. Having a baby with a woman would have meant not having sole responsibility.
A year before I started the adoption process, I started cutting down on clubbing etc, to make sure I could change my lifestyle and get used to it. Clubbing and going out was never satisfying enough for me anyway. I knew I wanted to do something more significant.
I contacted my local authority and the process went quite smoothly. I had an initial conversation with them that was positive, so I then took the first step of moving into a larger flat, as previously I was living in a one-bedroom flat.
I was the only single, gay person on the preparation training course. There were a few gay couples and lesbians in the group. In fact, I was the first to be matched successfully with a child. However, to achieve this I had to be very proactive – I was on the social worker’s case all the time. They have so much going on that I think you have to push otherwise you are sidelined.
The second time around, six local authorities refused to consider me because I only had a two-bedroom flat, even though I was proposing to move into the smaller bedroom and let the boys share the larger one with bunk beds. I don’t think the rejection was based on homophobia or discrimination, but I did feel let down by the original local authority that had approved me the first time. Luckily, one local authority said it wasn’t a problem and I have now moved into the smaller bedroom and the boys are happily sharing – I grew up like that and I think it is good for children to learn to share.
From my experience as a single adopter, you have to make sure you have a good support network. If your family is on board that is even better. I have an amazing family – they play a vital part. I realise now how much I need them.
You have to expect the unexpected – I didn’t think I would need to leave work early so many times in the first few months – it is not as simple as taking adoption leave and then going back to work. My first child found school difficult so I was often called and asked to collect him early. I used to pray my phone wouldn’t ring while I was at work, but when it does you have to go.
This has definitely been the right decision for me – it is the best thing I have done in my life. I’m probably happier now as a father than I have ever been, even though sometimes I am tearing my hair out.