Adopting a child is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling acts you can do. It’s not easy and can get messy but worth every moment of the process.
When I first met my wife and we started “seeing” each other she told me she had a daughter. I think it was down to the fact I may have run a mile if I knew she had a child. I’m not like that. I had never had a child so it was a new experience. As you’d expect I initially had selfish thoughts running through my head. “Will the focus be on me or on the child”.
I’m up for a challenge and embraced the fact I enjoyed Natalie’s company and to my surprise, I enjoyed the company of her daughter, Chloe. I’ll always remember my first encounter with her, no introduction, no “hello my name is..”, just simply “do you want a fruit pastel”. Men weren’t her strong point, she didn’t really bond well with them. So to Natalie’s surprise, the offer of a Fruit Pastel was an indication of acceptance. Over a few months of meeting up, Chloe started asking when she could next see me, sometimes demanding as a 2-year-old does.
Over time, we got to know each other quite well, with days out and movie & takeaway nights at my house. We were starting to become a good little team.
Introducing a girlfriend (& child) to the family
It was time for the obligatory “meet the parents”. This was quite nerve-racking for Natalie as it was for me when I met Natalie’s parents. But, add a child into the mix and there are a lot of thoughts that will go through your head such as acceptance, “my daughter isn’t their granddaughter, how will they react”. My family welcomed Natalie and Chloe with open arms. To Chloe, this was just an adventure and going to see someone else, so didn’t mean much to her at the time.
By this point, I had fallen madly in love with Natalie and she had with me, although there is still a debate 14 years later about who said “I Love you” first.
Accepting another person’s child
I accepted the fact Natalie and I were an official couple, but there was a child to think about too, a child that although we got on well together, we hadn’t bonded as much as I’d wanted. Was it naivety, inexperience, or something else?
Now Chloe, at the time was nearly 5 years old and was, to put it bluntly, a raging nightmare. Terrible twos had nothing on what Chloe could bring at the age of 5. She was and still is a master of pulling the biggest and most elaborate dramatised ‘paddy’s’ known to man. Was it this that was causing the bonding issue? the inexperience of dealing with child tantrums. I decided to let time take its course and allow Chloe & I to bond over time.
This method was kind of working, Natalie had gone to work and I was on babysitting duty, this was my opportunity to bond with Chloe. Trips to the park, a lot of CBeebies, playing tea parties, and hide and seek. It was working, Chloe and I were becoming closer and the bond I wanted with her was starting to develop.
The big question
One night we went for a Chinese takeaway. Chloe and I jumped in the car to pick up our Sweet & Sour chicken. As we’re sitting there waiting and munching on our fortune cookies. Chloe says something, I had no idea what she said as she’d spat fortune cookie all over me while saying it. So she quickly eats the cookie and with a big gulp she says it again… “Please will you be my Dad”.
That’s a big question if you’re a 5-year-old. Did she really understand what she was asking? I responded with the only thing I could in that situation. “I’d love to be your daddy, but we need to see if mummy wants me to be your daddy too”. Promptly after that, Order 14 was shouted, bag grabbed, in the car home Chloe asks “do you think mummy will say yes?”. I’m thinking I hope she does, because not only did I love Natalie, I started to love Chloe as my own. After a discussion with Natalie, her family, and my family, it was a unanimous decision that I should be Chloe’s Dad, as long as it is what Chloe 100% wanted.
The adoption process
After all of our initial discussions, we contacted Middlesbrough Council’s adoption service. Our case was slightly different from others, as we weren’t looking to adopt through an adoption panel, so the process was slightly shorter.
We were introduced to our caseworkers, who I must admit were fantastic. In our case, it was a lot about why I wanted to adopt and what I could offer Chloe as a parent long-term. They ask a lot of questions, so if you’re considering adopting, be prepared to be interrogated. They will look into your background, your career, your family’s background, criminal records (if you have any), and so on. You don’t have to be squeaky clean, but you do have to be suitable.
A child’s view on being adopted
One major part of the process for us was Chloe’s view on the whole thing. To this day Natalie and I don’t know what Chloe was asked, we probably never will. We never asked her, because it was entirely confidential to Chloe, and she was, at the time 5 year old. What we do know is they asked her why she wanted me to be her dad, what made her feel good about me being around her, and so on. They asked her to draw pictures that represent how she interpreted the outcome, again all we know is she drew a picture of us 3 as a family.
Tracing the biological parents
Part of the process is to attempt to trace the biological parents of the child to be adopted. In our case, this needed to be established to get permission to relinquish parental rights. This was probably one of the most nervous parts of the process. What if the biological father denies permission, he’d virtually had no contact all of her life. Many thoughts go through your head but you have to trust the process and be mature and level-headed about it. For us, the biological father agreed to relinquish parental rights.
The Court process
This was the nerve-racking part for us. It was all becoming official. We had to go to court 3 times.
- The first court appearance was to enter the adoption case into the court.
- The second was to see if the biological father was going to contest the adoption. Although he had agreed to relinquish parental responsibility, he could have changed his mind and contested the whole thing. He didn’t contest it and that lead us to:
- The third court appearance was to finalise it all.
The final court appearance was surreal, I felt like I was in trouble, that cold nervous sweat you get when you were at school, outside the headteacher’s office. I remember the scene vividly, myself & Chloe on one side of the room, Natalie and the grandparents at the back, caseworkers on the other side of the room and the Judge at the head of the room. Really lovely women, very warming of the situation.
Putting the case forward
The final court appearance was fairly quick, the caseworkers produced the case again to the judge, explaining they carried out all aspects of the adoption process, spoke to all relevant parties and that they believed I was suitable to be Chloe’s adoptive father. At this point, the judge asked Chloe if she wanted to choose a full name, for quite some time she was obsessed with being called Chloe Jessica, so it seemed fitting that it was ‘Chloe Jessica’ that she chose. In a short space of time, the judge announces that Chloe and I are officially Father and Daughter.
The feeling I got cannot be explained fully, warm, confident, full filling, a sense of feeling that I had provided emotional and physical stability to a child. However, all of the feelings didn’t project outward, Chloe and I just sat there, looked at each other and said “shall we go home then”.
We were told, that when she gets older she will be able to access all of the documents, pictures, notes and so on in case she ever wanted to trace her biological father, but with the advent of Facebook it is much easier to do, however, it doesn’t create a full picture, so be mindful of this if your child asks about his/her biological parents.
Life after adopting
Parenting isn’t easy. Parenting an adopted child is no different in my eyes. Over the years we’ve had the usual child tantrums, remember I mentioned opening the gates of hell if we said no to Chloe? Well, imagine that 3-year-old tantrum in the form of a hormonal teenager…
The time will come when your adopted child starts to ask questions about the biological father. Don’t hold back, be open and honest with them. That time came for us not so long ago and I won’t lie, it’s a tough conversation to have but a conversation worth having.
Will I love my adopted child differently
This is a tricky one, everyone has personal feelings, A hot topic for us at the moment, and a sore one. We have 3 children, 2 are biologically mine and Chloe whom I adopted. But the question is, do I love Chloe any differently?
For me, the simple answer is a categorical NO. I love all 3 of my kids in the same way. However, you and your adopted child have to come to a realisation that the connected bond you have WILL be different. That’s not to say the love is different. The DNA connection with a biological child is different from that of an adopted child and can create a bit of a brick wall at times.
This will take time, a lot of time and understanding to create a connection with each other. A connected compromise that will allow you and your adopted child to co-exist with a bond that only you two have.
Chloe and my relationship is odd I must admit, I love her to bits and she loves me but she drives me round the bend! I will always be there for her no matter what, through thick and thin and she knows that. Without being patronising to her, she’s a teenager, she won’t see it yet, but will one day realise I do what I do to protect her.
My emotional bond and connection to Chloe, although not seen through the eyes of others is incredibly strong, we’ve been through a lot over the years and although we argue a lot and she has her typical teenage strops, she’ll always be my first child and I couldn’t be prouder of the fact I’m her Dad. She’s, smart, intelligent and overachieves in anything she does academically. She has her faults, as do we all but I wouldn’t change her for the world.
Should I adopt
Yes. Is the simple answer. It’s hard work being a parent. But we’ll be worth it. Whether you adopt from a panel or adopt your spouse’s child, you will inevitably become the foundation for a child’s future. The overwhelming sense of achievement you get knowing that you can help grow and develop a child and yourself is one not to be sniffed at.