Adoption: One boy stood out to me – hes now my son

Adoption: One boy stood out to me – hes now my son

John was 40 when his relationship broke down. He had been with his partner for 15 years and they had bought a house together, but it didn’t work out.

He carried on with life, working for the insurance company he had worked at for decades, seeing friends and family – but he felt like something was missing.

Then one night, six years later, he was flicking through the TV channels and landed on a programme about single women adopting children.

“It just sparked my interest, really,” he explained.

“I had always thought I’d be a dad. But I thought it would happen naturally really, but time went on and I had been single for a few years.

“I started to feel like, ‘I’m 46 now, time’s ticking on a bit, if I want to be a dad it’s now or never’.”

He is one of a growing number of men embarking on fatherhood alone.

John, who adopted before the pandemic, phoned his local adoption services department, the Vale, Valley and Cardiff Adoption Service.

After a three-day “warts and all” training course, John decided adoption was the route for him.

But social services were concerned he might not have enough experience with children, so for six months he volunteered to mentor a teenager.

“After that we got back into the process – every fortnight or three weeks I had a meeting with my social worker who went through lots of scenarios with me: ‘What would you do if this happened? What would you do if that happened?’,” John recalled.

“He met my ex-partner and my other family members to find out more about me and see if it was a solid environment I could provide.”

In 2011, after a three-year process, John was approved by an adoption panel, who decide whether potential adopters are suitable. The next week his social worker came round.

“I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, by the time I came back into the lounge he had four photos of boys laid out on the table for me to look at and said ‘do any of these strike your interest?’

“Immediately one stood out to me – he is now my son.”

John said he found it difficult to describe the feeling to someone who had not been through the adoption process, but said it was “like when you’re looking for a house and you walk into a house, and you get the feeling that this is the house you want”.

“It’s not a great comparison but that’s the nearest I can get to it,” he added.

The photograph John had settled upon was of six-year-old Chris, not his real name, who had been with foster carers for 18 months after being put up for adoption because of concerns he was not being looked after properly.

John met Chris’s social worker, then his foster mother and finally – five months later – Chris himself.

“Ten days later he had moved in with me. And that was it,” John said.

Overnight John had become a dad – and he said it was a big change for both of them.

“It was a bit of a culture shock. You go from being on your own for a certain amount of time and all of a sudden you’ve got someone there to look after.

“On the first night everything was fine, quite exciting and everything. But on the second evening he went to bed and was crying and he was like, ‘I don’t like it, I want to go back’.

“My heart sank, I was like ‘what do I do, what do I do?'”

Unable to get hold of his social worker that night, John struggled to sleep, worrying whether this was the right thing for Chris.

But the next morning, his social worker called him back.

“He said ‘it’s fine, it’s just a normal reaction, just carry on and see how things go’. And after that he was fine.”

Interest in adoption has gone up “significantly” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Suzanne Griffiths, of Wales’ National Adoption Service.

The service had around 250 more enquiries in the first six months of 2020-2021 compared to the same period in 2019-2020 – an increase of more than a quarter.

“Families have had time to think about what’s important to them and we believe that’s influenced the increase in interest,” she said.

Although very few single men adopt each year – the numbers are in “single figures” in Wales – she said there had been a bit more interest in the last two years.

She added: “Some of the traditional stereotypes about the role of women being mothers, care-givers and the people that look after children are changing.”

Nine years on, Chris is now a teenager and John says they are a tight family unit.

“It’s great for me because I’ve been a dad and that’s what I wanted.

“And it’s great for him because I’ve given him a better opportunity than he would have had.

“It’s given me a purpose really, I suppose.

“I just want him to be the best he can be really. What I’m looking for, for him, is to be a good person and to do the best he can with his life and I’ve played a small part in helping him have a better life than he would have maybe.

“He’d probably say I’m a good dad, apart from banning him from his Xbox and making him do his school work.

“But that’s just normal teenage boys isn’t it? That’s what he is. He’s not an adopted boy of mine, he’s a normal teenage son.”

Watch Wales Live on BBC One Wales at 22:35 GMT on Wednesday and on the BBC iPlayer.

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