This week we welcome our first inspirational LGBTQ parents of 2019, Luke and Andrew from Wales, UK. Luke and Andrew have a six year-old son, MJ, who they adopted through their local authority. Here, we talk to Luke about life as two dads, their adoption process and their large extended family.
Welcome to Daddy & Dad! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Andrew and I met in 2013 through mutual friends and started the whole dating process after we were introduced. It was a very romantic start, spending time intimately playing scrabble, motorbike rides through the welsh countryside and picnics near the beautiful lakes around us.
We got married in 2016 where it was very intimate with just 15 people closest to us. We spent the day of our wedding walking around castle grounds and having afternoon tea in the village hall, it was one of the most memorable times of our lives. Our son MJ is six, I’m 28 and Andrew is reluctantly 32!
How did you find the adoption process? How long did it take from enquiry through to your son being placed with you?
We adopted through a local authority where we were quickly offered a place on a three day training course on what it takes to become adoptive parents and an insight into the needs of children who need to be adopted. After this we had a three month break before making our decision to proceed with the matching process. It all took around 14 months from the very start to MJ being placed with us.
We experienced a series of initial assessments which took around five months and involved writing profiles about ourselves, what we think parenting and adoption means, what kind of relationship we have, what support network we have and what the area we live in has to offer.
Our Social Worker visited roughly twice per fortnight and we quickly built a relationship with her. She worked in an ‘old school’ type of way and was a little eccentric. We liked this as we had fun along the way. At times she would need to be intrusive to understand our life experiences, how we deal with certain situations, and what our relationship is like. However, she made this as comfortable as possible; even during the most awkward and emotional times.
We were under the impression there were too many adopters in the agency for how many children needed to be adopted, so we could potentially be waiting two years to be matched with a child.
We felt the need to make the most of our time before becoming parents and looked at booking holidays, extending our home and saving more than we had planned. A couple of days later to our amazement we were matched with a child we could potentially adopt. As you can imagine, we didn't know what to do or say, so we arranged to meet with our social worker who brought a profile of him and a small black and white picture.
After what felt like an age we heard the good news that he wanted to proceed and the last few arrangements were made to start the matching process. We sent MJ a gift bag which included a duvet, a teddy, a photo-book of our home and life and a DVD of a short film we made to introduce ourselves.
After a few more weeks where we sat around twiddling our thumbs and decorating our spare room, there was a final panel. This was the formal matching panel where the group of professionals agreed that we could be matched. We were interviewed and they read our file and all agreed we could FINALLY meet our son.
The best part of the process was to finally meet MJ and continue our story together as a family.
How did you get on at the Adoption Panel?
Our adoption panel consisted of medical practitioners, our social workers and members of the public and went very well. Leading up to the panel day my husband was less nervous than me, for me It was daunting. However, I quickly felt at ease whilst we were asked questions about ourselves, questions relating to the assessments we had already undertook and our life experiences.
We then sat in a waiting room while the professionals who were on the panel deliberated, and ten minutes later we were announced as prospective adopters. We were delighted with their decision and felt extremely overwhelmed.
Did you know you wanted a son right from the beginning?
We both mutually didn’t mind a boy or girl, or both by the time we had to make that decision.
We looked at other ways of having a family at the beginning but felt adoption was the best option for us. We want MJ to have a sibling so we will be looking to adopt another child (preferably a girl) in the future. We are relocating to a bigger house so we will be ready when the time comes.
How did your extended families take to your son? Are your parents hands-on?
Our extended family took very well to MJ and were so excited to meet him. We were advised for us to bond with MJ for a couple of weeks first, then slowly introduce him to them. Looking back, we probably could have introduced him sooner as he flourished being around all the people who already loved him. It’s a learning curve for the next time!
My parents live further away from us and have 26 grandchildren and are very hands on with them as they live very close to each other, whereas Andrew’s parents and sister live near us and are generally more hands on.
How do you manage the balance between work and family life?
When MJ was placed with us, I was the primary adopter and we were both supported by our employers through 'adoption and shared parental leave'. We both ensured we had time off for the first couple of months together to bond and currently Andrew and I work together to ensure one of us is there for the school run, tea time and afterschool activities.
We are an active family but love to make time spent in front of the TV watching Sunday documentaries, or Harry Potter if MJ gets to choose.
Have you experienced any negativity as a same-sex couple?
We have faced challenges as parents and what comes with parenting a child, but as LGBT parents specifically, we have not had to face challenges. We have support from other LGBT+ parents, our community and school is a strong supporter and we are embraced wherever we go.
There was one time the adoption team sent a letter to Mr & Mrs - they quickly rectified this and we were officially Mr & Mr through the eyes of our Social Workers, ha-ha!
What do you like to do in your spare time as a family?
We love spending time watching movies and playing board games when we get a quiet Sunday. We enjoy being outdoors all year round exploring the woodlands and the countryside.
Andrew’s sister and MJ’s cousins live on a farm, so we go there often to look after the new lambs in the spring and to help muck out the horses. We recently climbed Pen-Y-Fan mountain and it was most definitely something to only do if you’re fit, phew! We enjoy eating out and celebrating with our extended family where there is always a birthday cake to tuck into and one of MJ’s favourite things to do is trampolining and going to the cinema, so we find ourselves going there at weekends to see the latest and wear ourselves out.
What one piece of advice would you give to people who are considering a family via adoption?
Be honest and embrace what you may learn about yourself and your spouse throughout the process. Don’t feel inadequate, be confident and educate yourself.
If you're an LGBTQ parent, or soon-to-be parent and would like to share your story with our readers, please get in touch with Jamie via our contact page. x