Ian, a family finder for our adoption services in south-east England, adopted two sons with his partner Paul. He shares their story with us.

Two men with young boys on their shoulders

The first steps

We'd wanted children for a long time. I was an actor in a panto with a cast of children – that tipped me over the edge. It was Christmas time, and it was then that friends suggested we should get in touch with Barnardo's about adoption. We had previously approached eight local authorities, but their timescales were quite lengthy. In two weeks we had more information from Barnardo's than we'd had from any of the councils over a period of months. Our social worker then is very much part of our family now.

The adoption process

Although the adoption process required jumping through a lot of hoops, it actually ended up being quite a cathartic process – it forces you to dig deep into yourself. We ended up finding strength in things that we thought were negative. For example, my father died when I was 11 and the adoption process made me realise that the experience of bereavement as a child had given me an insight and understanding of what it’s like to lose a parent. Paul also had a difficult relationship with his father for much of his life (which has since improved), so we both wanted to be good fathers above all else. ​

Becoming parents

Paul and I have been together for 17 years. Previous to having Bobby and George, we were two gay men with very independent lifestyles – going out to dinner at the drop of a hat, regular holidays etc. Things change a lot when you suddenly have two small people in the house. For instance, when our sons first arrived, we had to colour code everything so we knew which items belonged to whom. Our house is now full of green and blue as a result: green and blue towels, toothbrushes, lunchboxes…

We live in West Sussex, so our boys are able to run around open fields and beaches to their hearts’ content. Personality wise, they’re like chalk and cheese! There are some attachment issues we’ve had to work through, but to see the changes in the boys is so rewarding. The impact of inadequate early intervention on attachment issues in later life cannot be underestimated. It helps that their school is so supportive, and I’ve been into the school to educate the teachers on the tell-tale signs of attachment issues in children.

Those special moments

The range of emotions you go through as a parent is unbelievable – I never knew we would laugh or cry so much. That being said, since becoming a parent I have laughed like I’ve never laughed before. There are those tiny moments that are irreplaceable, even though the road can be a bit bumpy at times. While our sons might not have mine or Paul’s blood, they have our morals and outlook on life – it feels amazing to know that all comes from us.

Reactions to gay dads

Fortunately we haven’t encountered any negativity as gay parents. There were a few giggly looks at the school gates when we arrived, but we were only a novelty for a couple of weeks. We seem to be boring now! In regards to what our sons think, they don’t know any different – they’re just two happy boys. In fact, some of their friends are jealous – one school friend even asked his mum why he couldn’t have two dads too! ​

We're a complete unit

I look at my boys now and I can’t imagine them being with any other parents – we’re a complete unit. We take the boys on nice holidays and they have a lifestyle that they might not have had otherwise.

My motto is 'breathe, breathe, breathe' – for anything, but especially applicable to parenting! I've now stopped acting and work for Barnardo's as a family finder – advising other people who are going through the adoption process. 

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