In this interview, Gareth shares how he and his wife met their son. I love how he describes his best memory since his son came home. You can follow their journey on Instagram @when3became4in2020
Introduce yourself and your family
My name is Gareth, I’m a 41 year old male. I live at home with my wife, Jo, our adopted 8 year old cat, Leo, and our recently placed 17 month old son.
What area of the UK do you live in?
I live in Derbyshire.
Was your agency a local authority or voluntary agency?
We started the adoption process through Derbyshire County local authority. They became East Midlands Adoption in April 2019 after amalgamating with Nottinghamshire County, Nottingham city and Derby City.
Did you read any adoption stories before you started? If so where?
Adoption was something we always spoke about, but prior to starting the process we did very little reading about it. Since starting the process we have read a lot of books from a variety of authors.
As part of the process we decided to complete an Instablog on Instagram to document our process (@when3became4in2020). Through this we have been able to share our ups and downs, as well as support other people going through the process. It has been a great source of support to ourselves too, especially Jo. We’ve made some good friends who we’re lucky enough to be able to see from time to time which allows are children to mix and play together too.
What was your biggest worry before you started?
Looking back, I don’t think I had many worries about the process at the start. I’m quite laid back and was willing to let the process run its course. As a couple we discussed the emotional pressures of adoption and whether we could love a non-biological child like we would had they been born to us.
We also had a good lifestyle with foreign diving holidays, good jobs and we were comfortable financially. So we inevitably had concerns about how much our life would change. We wanted both lifestyles!
Being able to provide a child with a safe, comfortable and loving home was something we couldn’t pass up. Our selfishness was no reason to stop that happening. One day our adopted child would be joining us in the ocean and that is something we can’t wait for.
How long did the process take from the point of deciding you wanted to adopt to your child coming home?
20 months in total. After numerous failed attempts of fertility treatment, we decided in May 2018 to make the call, with Stage 1 eventually starting in October 2018. We were finally approved in April 2019.
In August 2019 we were informed about our little boy and the match was completed in December 2019, before placement in January 2020.
What age and number of children were you approved for? Were you matched to a different age or number of children from this?
We were approved to adopt one or two children with an age range of 0-3yrs. We were matched to a one year old boy (now 17 months old).
How did the matching process work? Did you look at lots of profiles?
Our social worker sent us a number of profiles and we also looked online using Linkmaker. A few of the profiles sent to us were completely different to that for which we had been approved and discussed during the assessment stage.
We found it difficult at times, looking at the profiles knowing that they were not suitable and we could not offer these children the safe home they deserve. But when we saw the profile of our match, we knew this was the one.
What has been the most difficult part about the process?
Personally I struggled with the whole process after approval panel. Prior to approval, I found the ongoing assessments quite easy. They were intrusive, looking into my life, but I expected that. I found them quite therapeutic at times and felt almost like a counselling session!! I learnt a lot about myself and our relationship during that part of the process.
After approval I found it very frustrating. Receiving profiles that did not suit our situation and having to put our lives on hold on a month by month basis, as we weren’t sure when things would progress. I didn’t feel like we had control of our lives and could plan holidays or agree to events like friends weddings, as we weren’t sure whether there would be two, three of us or more! We were also trying to save money and annual leave at work so we could make the most of the time with our little one after placement.
The process after the placement order being granted wasn’t easy either. A number of appeals were lodged by the birth parents which meant dates that’d been set (bump into meeting, matching panel etc) had to be rearranged a couple of times. These dates were changed at short notice too, which also had the knock on effect of disrupting work commitments as I had to change my annual leave regularly. This was, to be fair, an unusual situation but nevertheless frustrating. At times I felt the process was weighed in the favour of birth parents, far more than the child’s needs.
Have you needed to access additional help and support from your agency since your child came home? If so, what and did it meet your needs?
So far we’ve not required any further support.
What has been your best memory since your child came home?
I’ve enjoyed my time at home with the little one and my wife and will always have many fond memories of the adoption leave I have been able to have. It has been tough at times though, both emotionally and physically.
I have a lot of nice memories from this time, but I would say my best memories are from when we spend time together as a family. On a few occasions we have been sat on the sofa with our little one between us, looking at us and grabbing our faces, pushing us together to kiss, for us to then lean forward and kiss him. Seeing his beaming smile and laugh doing this over and over always makes me smile when I think about it.
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself about the process before you started, what would you tell yourself?
I would start by telling myself to speak to other adoptive dads and listen to their experiences and advice. It’s a hard, long and frustrating process that seems to get harder as it goes along.
I would also tell myself to prepare more for the time after placement. Introductions are great and give you a fantastic insight into your little one and the way they are, but when all is said and done, you have the back up of the foster carers to hand and at the end of the day, you go home.
After placement the change is literally like going from 0 to 100 miles an hour immediately. Despite the training, I think I had a clouded judgement that our new life would be perfect immediately. I’m sure I’m not alone feeling like that. It isn’t quite like that. You have to look out for new routines, different behaviours, triggers etc, as well as stresses within your own relationships.
It’s emotionally and physically draining especially as it’s 24 hours a day. It has been stressful at times and I’m now more aware that it will continue to be as I settle into being a parent of a little person. I try to be more aware of those difficult times so that I can try and deal with them better each time. Not easy. But when the little one calls you Daddy, smiles or hugs you, it’s unconditional and the tougher times drift away.
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