Adrian Mullis, HR Business Partner for Defence and Government Services, has two sons Patrick and Ben with his partner Jai. Here he shares his experiences of adoption and raising a family as a same sex couple.
It was my partner Jai who suggested adoption, he’s a lot more worldly-wise than me. I just assumed as a gay man I’d never be a parent.
Jai and I met in 1999 fell in love and knew that we wanted to be with each other in the long term. Jai brought up the subject of adoption in 2003 and, in my typical methodical style I began researching options and ways of doing it. We decided that we really need as much support and training on being parents as we could get, and the local councils aren’t funded for that, so to a certain extent when you become a parent of an adopted kid, you’re then left on your own. But we went to Barnardo’s, who offer training and support. Barnardo’s and other charities are often tasked with finding parents for the more ‘challenging’ kids that the councils perhaps have struggled to find homes for.
This is where two little brothers, aged 8 and 6 entered our lives. They are “challenging” because Patrick, the elder of the two, has developed “attachment issues” after being handed back in to the care system after their previous “forever family” decided they couldn’t continue to adopt them. They had been in six foster families, plus this failed adoption since leaving their birth mother. They needed structure, security and most of all love.
The adoption process sound straight forward, however at one point we had to go up in front of an adoption panel at Lincolnshire council. This panel were to decide if they were fit to be parents or not. Just before we went in the social worker whispered to us that unfortunately one of the panel was well known for being anti-gay and would try and turn the others. (This was only 12 years ago, and I sincerely hope that this wouldn’t happen now!) Luckily the decision didn’t need to be unanimous, and the panel granted the adoption.
It was never an issue to the boys that they had two Dads. They’d not had any exposure of homophobia, when they came to us, so it was just normal” (Barnardo’s taught us about how adoptive kids will test boundaries). When an adopted kid says ‘I hate you, I don’t want to be here’ it can be really tough to hear, but it’s their fear of rejection, testing the parent. They need to hear that they are loved and wanted.”
“I remember they also warned us that as fostering placements usually last 12 months, to watch out around the first anniversary of being adopted, as that was often a time of major insecurity. Step by step we made it through,”
We found a nice local primary school, and we were just up front with them. We said we were two men who’d adopted two children who needed a good school, and that the kids needed extra support. They were brilliant. They welcomed us all in to their community and the boys settled in really well.”
However things got more difficult when Patrick started secondary school.
Once again we decided to be up front with the school. We had meetings and explained their family structure. By this time, both boys had been identified as being behind in their learning, which is very common with adoptive kids, and those who have been through trauma.
The team at the school responded with “Oh, we’ve never had any students with same sex parents before.”
Hmmm. The school, which at any one time had 1,700 students, (and this was only seven years ago) may not have been aware of any same sex parents, but that’s an interesting point to think about, why some of these students must have been hiding their parents “in the closet”.
We all went on a bit of a journey , not only us as a family, but the deputy head of the school, Patrick’s teaching assistant and some of the other teachers.
Patrick found it hard to form relationships at school. There was a bit of prejudice from the other kids, and Patrick would want to shield that from us. He got suspended a few times and every week Jai or I would have another meeting with the school.
“Sodexo were always brilliant, though. All my line managers have been really supportive and allowed me the time off I needed to sort things out. It got pretty bad at one point, when the Exec Head telling us that Patrick was on his last chance before permanent exclusion. But the deputy head, TA and rest of the team at school never gave up on him. And of course neither did we remaining the loving, dependable parents who will go through anything to make sure their sons have the support they need.
Well he didn’t get expelled! Patrick 19 and Ben 17 are now both doing really well, and have come through their turbulent childhood and are two well -adjusted young men. Patrick has just started a farming apprenticeship and Ben has applied for to join the RAF. We are proud to have shown them that they can achieve whatever they want in life, if they have commitment to it, just like the commitments we have made to them.