Intercountry and transracial adoption
Adopt London South recently had the pleasure of talking to Dominic about his experience of being adopted and brought to the UK as a baby. After more than a decade working as a celebrity make-up artist, Dominic started his own vegan beauty brand (Dominic Paul Cosmetics) in honour of his mother, Joanne, who sadly passed away from cancer in 2017. He is open about being an adopted adult and was generous in his time and honesty when talking about himself.
Dominic was born in Thailand and adopted at six months’ old by a white British couple, Joanne and David. He lived in Biggin Hill for a short time and then the family moved to Benenden in Kent. Joanne and David had already adopted a girl from Ecuador and then four years after Dominic, they adopted a girl from Thailand.
Although his adoptive parents were unable to conceive their own children, they were determined to have a family and were open to children from other countries who needed the love and support they knew they could give. Dominic says that is where he gets his strength and determination from. As a family, they had disagreements but worked them out between themselves, they made life ‘normal’ and were a unit.
Dominic spoke with fondness about his childhood and has great memories of family life growing up. His adoptive parents gave him so many opportunities but he can reflect on what life may have been if he had remained in Thailand. His parents were embracing of the diversity in their family. They took several trips to Thailand, but they did not go down the normal tourist routes. His parents took them off the tourist tracks so that he and his sisters could experience much more of ‘real life’ and therefore the trips were more meaningful for them. They did not ‘sugar-coat’ the situation.
Dominic could see two very different sides to life in Thailand; the rich and the poor. He believes he may have been one of the street children begging for food or working long hard hours in the rice fields, if his destiny had been different. He said in the poorer parts of the country it is “smelly and there are rats everywhere” and he appreciates the second chance he was given.
Even now, he is drawn back to Thailand: “I feel at ease, I feel calm and I just want to learn about the culture”. He is quick to thank his parents for giving him that sense of place and allowing him to embrace and explore his birth culture.
Dominic has never had the desire to know about his birth family. There is a photograph of him as a baby that his adoptive parents were sent when they were first approached about adopting him, but that is all that there is of his first six months. He has never had his birth certificate translated into English. He believes that because he felt loved and had such a strong, happy upbringing, he did not feel there was anything missing. He never wondered where his ‘real’ parents were as he had his mum and dad in Joanne and David. Dominic said he has a sense he was put up for adoption because his birth family wanted a better life for him than the one they could provide. His only one regret is that he did not learn to speak the Thai language.
Dominic does not recall a specific moment when he realised he did not look like his parents. Having a sister from Ecuador already a part of the family and then being joined by another sister from Thailand helped a great deal. However, the family lived in a predominantly white area of Kent and they did experience some racism. His parents tried to protect him and his sisters from it, but he looks back and can see that there were incidents when they were out as a family. People would comment on the colour of the children’s skin, ask questions or treat the children differently. Dominic also spoke about some family members not being happy when his parents adopted children who were not white British.
Dominic and his siblings are close and always support each other. They are never lonely and will have dinner together and be there if one is feeling down. However, his sisters feel differently about adoption than he does. They have wondered why they are adopted, but he hopes there is not lasting negative impact for them. He understands that each adopted adult will feel differently about their own situation and history.
Dominic is a strong advocate for adoption; he wears his adoption ‘like a badge of honour’ and hopes that talking about it will give other children the opportunities and aspirations that they deserve.
He says if young adopted people have unanswered questions they should ask them: Why am I adopted? Who are my birth parents? Where am I from? He urges adoptive parents to talk to their children freely and openly about their family history and their cultural background, so they do not grow up feeling that pieces of their identity are missing. It is better to talk openly than have your child search for their birth family without your support.
“Acknowledge that your children have another family. Learn how to talk to them, about all the layers of their identity: their birth family, their heritage and culture and help them develop a strong sense of who they are. It is important for young people to know everything from early on in their lives so it is not a shock. They should be able to talk openly about their adoption and past rather than feel they need to hide it.”
Dominic firmly believes that children are children, no matter who they are or where they are from and they deserve love and security.
Adopt London South is grateful to Dominic for giving his insight into his personal experience of what his transracial adoption was like. His advice to adopters comes from his lived experience and observations.
If you live in a diverse area of London and have a diverse network of friends, transracial adoption could be a possibility for you, as the child will have racial mirrors and role models in their lives. We have a transracial adoption guide to help you reflect and consider the different layers of complexity in transracial adoption. The guide will help you decide whether your network of friends and your lifestyle is the best place for a child of a different ethnicity as you to feel safe, supported and able to embrace and be curious about their heritage, and be confident and secure in their identity. For more information on adoption and details of meetings and events, visit our website.
To follow Dominic on Instagram search @dominicpaul91