Right now there are more than 2,500 children in the UK who are waiting to be adopted and start their new lives.
Since 2013, the number of children who are adopted by same-sex couples has almost doubled.
For National Adoption Week this week, James and Ethan share their journey one year on after adopting two young boys.
“Ethan and I spoke about our desire to have children early on, maybe even on our first date. We both felt like adoption was a no-brainer” James says.
The couple began the process back in summer 2015. After problems with the first agency who took 18 months without even completing stage one of the adoption process - which should normally take just six in total - they approached Parents and Children Together (PACT), an adoption agency who welcome LGBTQ adopters.
“We began with PACT in September 2016 and by September 2017 we were bringing our children home. Once our application was approved we were besieged with interest from social workers.”
Ethan, who is black and whose parents are from Nigeria, initially thought that they could only support one child. But after receiving a profile of two young boys – almost one and two-years-old – who were an exact match in terms of heritage and whose characteristics seemed a really good match, he called James in tears saying “these could be our children”.
A couple of weeks ago the family celebrated their one-year anniversary – a year to the day since they brought the boys home for good.
James recalls the all-too-familiar coming out story of parents who are disappointed that they won’t have grandchildren. “It’s fantastic that adoption has removed those barriers.”
But the journey has not been without its challenges. The couple have found it difficult to get their more traditional-minded parents to see the boys as their grandchildren.
In many ways the world has still not fully caught up with same-sex adoption.
“As the first same-sex couple at our nursery, the enrolment form still had boxes for a mother’s name and a father's name”.
What surprised the pair navigating the world as two dads was the way parenting is aimed predominantly at women.
“People make innocent comments like, ‘Oh is it Daddy day care?’. With Mothercare, Mumsnet and even baby food advertised and aimed all at women, sometimes we wonder how we fit in, where are our voices heard? Just because we are two men doesn’t mean we care for our children any less.”
Meeting other adoptive parents, both gay and straight, has been really useful for the couple.
New Family Social, a network for LGBT adopters and We are Family, adoption support charity hold regular meet-ups which the pair attended as prospective adopters to meet other families. They continue to go to these events to chat with others who are on the same journey.
James adds: “When you adopt there is very little time to adjust. Suddenly you have a one and two-year-old in your house, it’s a stark overnight transition. Meeting other adoptive parents and having that support is essential.
“Adoption is all consuming, just like having a child is for any other family. There are no more lie-ins” jokes James, but the couple couldn’t imagine life without the boys now.
“Day to day you are a normal parent. But having adopted young children you know there is a bombshell coming as they realise their differences. Having parents who are a same sex couple is like a double bombshell: not only are they adopted but they have two dads.”
Despite the challenges, Ethan and James have found family life an absolute joy: “It’s full on and we have to get out of the house as much as possible to keep the boys entertained. They are the light of our lives but gosh is it hard work!” laughs the pair.
A range of support is available for adopters like the Adoption Support Fund, which helps to pay for therapy services for families.
To find out more about adoption visit here.
*James and Ethan’s names have been changed.