Tuesday, March 5, 2013
[United Kingdom] - Gay Families and Adoption - Phil Raey-Smith
When the questions about adoption come, they come out of the blue and hit me for six.
“Why did you chose to look after me and nobody else?”
This time, it was at the luggage carousel at Gatwick Airport as we waited for our bags. There are so many answers, but I managed to come up with something about Scott being special and just right for us.
When I came out, aged 18, I never expected to have kids. That was 20 years ago. A change in the law in 2005 changed my life. Adoption made a family possible for me, and this week is the second annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Adoption and Fostering Week.
Adoption isn’t something you go into lightly. It’s all too easy to think about the negatives: do we want our lives to be picked over by social workers? What kind of child will we end up with?
After I got married in Canada to Michael, we thought a lot about kids. There were times when he was ready to adopt, but I wasn’t – and vice versa. It wasn’t until a gay couple we knew took the leap towards getting approved to adopt that we realised we could do the same ourselves. It felt like one of the toughest phone calls I ever had to make: calling the council to tell them that I reckoned we could be parents and wanted to adopt. It seemed crazy even to suggest the idea.
Fortunately, they took us seriously. They wanted to see what childcare experience we had, and what kind of support network we had. I volunteered at the local primary school for one morning a week to prove how skilled I was at looking after children. Which is to say, I wasn’t very skilled at all. But I learned.
Our social worker interviewed us about every aspect of our lives, from deaths in the family to bank balances. We had to have a medical and promise not to smoke.
Just 18 months after that first phone call to the council, we had a little boy placed with us. Scott was almost three when he moved in. He’s now about to turn seven.
It did change my life, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
That’s why I was surprised, not to say dismayed, when I heard the recent comments by the Welsh Secretary, David Jones MP. He said gay couples ‘clearly’ cannot provide a ‘warm and safe environment’ in which to raise children.
Family life for us means many things, from mundane trips to the supermarket, to bedtime stories where Scott proudly demonstrates how well he can read. We have our highs and lows like any family. But despite what David Jones thinks, it is definitely warm and safe.
It’s a shame, because his comments risk putting other gay couples off adopting. And there’s an urgent need for them. According to the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, 4,000 children must be adopted every year, and the Fostering Network believes 9,000 additional foster carers need to be found across the UK.
Adoption agencies increasingly value what gay people can offer. LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week allows them to find out more about what it’s like to offer a home to looked-after children. You can meet people who have done it themselves. And it could be just the inspiration it was to us. For many potential parents, as well as children in care around the UK, this week could be life-changing.