A dad’s story for Father’s Day
Like many Londoners, Paul* migrated from his hometown in the north to work and build a new life for himself. With a fantastic career and social life, Paul tells us how he – a black, single LGBT man – made his dream to be a father a reality.
‘I always knew I wanted to adopt a child, right from when I was in my teens, and although it wasn’t my only goal in life, it has always been part of my DNA to be a dad. I felt I had a lot to give, I had a happy and secure childhood, and I wanted to give that to a young person who needed it. There were black children out there who needed the love and support of a family, and I just knew I could do it.
I worked at my career, so I was comfortable and settled, and bought myself a house, completed renovations and felt I was in a good place to start my journey. While undertaking all the practical elements in getting my home ready, I did my homework in understanding children in the care system. What brought them there? What had their lives been like? What was their future? I did four months’ work experience at a Stay and Play Centre to gain first-hand knowledge of children from a different background and culture to myself and the nieces and nephews I had looked after over the years.
I reviewed my finances, explored my entitlements with my employers and shared my plans with my family and friends, who were supportive and positive. Two and a half years’ later, I contacted one of the Adopt London adoption teams, they considered what I had to offer and we began the assessment. I liked my social worker, right from the start, she ‘got’ me. The process was tough, but I prepared for it. I did my research and with my social worker, we made it through to Panel day. Now, I have spoken to many adopters, and many felt anxious attending Panel. I was the complete opposite, I planned to take it all in and be the best version of me! I am confident! But, five minutes before walking into that Panel room, I suddenly felt a bit of panic – this was it! Wow!
During the adoption process there are lengthy discussions about the children you feel able to adopt in line with their background, their health, etc. bearing in mind ALL the children will have uncertainty in their future – that’s the nature of adoption. As a single parent, I knew the child I adopted would have to fit, to some degree, into my life, as well as me into theirs. However, when I saw the photo of my son, and read some brief information about him – I just knew he was my son. Turns out his background was the complete opposite to what I thought I could handle, but I talked all the issues out with my social worker, recalled all the training and preparation I had done in the assessment and with my belief that I could make his life better, it was agreed we could proceed. Elliott had been moved five times in his lifetime – he was only four years old! His background was complicated, and unusual, and social workers wanted to make sure our match was right, and be sure it would be a success, as this little guy wouldn’t handle a sixth unsuccessful move. I could make his life a lot richer with the support and love I had to give.
All introductions are meticulously planned. The first time I met Elliott was a well-staged ‘bump into’, with him and his foster carer Stacey*, in a play centre in Manchester! If I wasn’t so terrified it would have been hilarious, there I was, all six foot three of me, playing in a ball pit with the little boy who was to be my son, I was blown away. He was tiny – with a huge personality! Oh wow, you could really see who was boss!
Over a few weeks, again because of Elliott’s unsettled background, after the bump-into, Stacey, Elliott and I were able to FaceTime once a week for a month. Eventually planning started to bring Elliott to his new home – with me – in London. Stacey and Elliott came down on the train. As Elliott was old enough, he understood – to a degree – what was happening, but also may have had some recognition that this ‘moving to a new home’ hadn’t worked out before. Would this man be like the others? He felt safe with Stacey. My anxiety kicked in, as I did not want to cause him more trauma with yet another move. I called my mum; she helped me calm down, told me ‘it will be fine.’
On the train down, Stacey said Elliott was over-excited, anxious, upset – he said, he didn’t want to leave Stacey, it was hard to hear. But as their journey continued, it got easier. I met them from the station and as soon as we got home, Elliott ran to his new room, settled in all his toys, and after a dinner of fish fingers and chips, he settled down to sleep – we were all exhausted!
Stacey and I stayed up for hours until she left to stay in a hotel nearby – just in case! I popped my head into Elliot’s room to check on him. I just thought, ‘Oh My God! What is going on? I am somebody’s dad! I smiled because I made it happen.
Being a dad
Being Elliott’s dad is amazing, we’ve learnt so much about each other, and yes, we adjust and work at every new situation. Now we ‘get’ each other and we get along brilliantly. It’s tiring being a parent sometimes and I’ve learnt to be kind to myself. Asking for help from a friend with their kids, my sister nearby or when my mum stays over, is absolutely fine, and gives me some ‘me time’ to whiz round Westfield for some well-earned retail therapy!
There is one thing I would say to newly adoptive parents – there’s no rule book. Obviously, there’s a different approach to parenting for adopted children, but don’t put pressure on yourself. It’s amazing how it all comes together.
Elliott and I are building memories ….our first holiday was awesome and surreal. An all-inclusive trip to Dubai as father and son. So far, so good. We’re living our best lives!
* Names changed