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REAL ADOPTION STORY: Jo & Alex

March 04, 2020


Jo and Alex* are a trans couple. They adopted their daughter with the help of SFCS in 2018. We are delighted that they’ve agreed to share their story with us for LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week 2020.

*All names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality

 

Since the early days of our relationship, we knew that we wanted to adopt.  Due to surgeries we had while transitioning, we weren’t able to biologically have children of our own, so adoption has always been the obvious choice for us.

In the early days, I wasn’t actually sure whether trans people could adopt. I studied social care and education at university, and spoke with staff there about whether trans people who had transitioned are allowed to adopt… no-one knew the answer.

There is a lot of information out there about LGBT+ adoption, but most of it seems to focus on lesbian and gay adopters. But we carried out as much research as we could and, as a result of my studies, we knew quite a bit about the adoption process itself.  We decided to go for it.

At first we wondered if we would actually have to tell the adoption agency that we were trans. Then we discovered how in-depth the medical report would be, and knew that we had to be completely up front about it!

This made us think really carefully about the adoption agency we would use.  We researched several Local Authorities (LAs) and independent adoption agencies, wanting to make sure we found an agency who would be supportive and sensitive.  After attending several open events and looking at various websites, we decided to begin the adoption process with St. Francis’ Children’s Society (SFCS).

 

Our journey begins

At the beginning, we were prepared for the whole process to take a long time. We were worried that us being trans might cause problems when it came to matching us with a child, that LAs would favour cisgender couples when finding families for the children in their care. We also wanted to adopt a younger child, and thought that LAs might only consider trans couples for harder to place children. We needn’t have worried. The process was quicker and smoother than we could have imagined.

During Stage 1 of the process, we attended four days of preparation training.  We both found this really helpful, but Alex was particularly reassured by the sessions about birth families and contact. Hearing the experiences of existing adopters was also really valuable for both of us.

When we had completed both Stage 1 and Stage 2, it was time to go to panel. Up until this point, we’d been working closely with the team at SFCS and had built a good relationship with our social worker. But the panel would include people from outside of SFCS, and we were a little anxious about how we would be received. We worried that there might be insensitive questions. Or worse, that the panel would be too scared to ask questions about us being trans in case they caused offence!

But our social worker reassured us that all panel members had received appropriate training, and it was a very positive experience for us. We were approved, and the process of finding our child could begin.

 

Finding our daughter

Up until this point, we’d been in a sort of SFCS bubble, where we felt supported and everyone was very accepting of us. But now, our profile would be ‘out there’ for LAs across the country to see.  We decided not to include the fact that we are trans in our profile, in case it affected anyone’s decision to make initial contact with us.

When we were matched with our daughter, her LA asked questions about how us being trans could impact on her and how it might affect our parenting. But the questions were handled sensitively, the LA were happy with our responses and we felt good about moving forward.

 

The first meeting

The LA set up a ‘Chemistry Meeting’ for us, so that we would meet our daughter for the first time and see how we ‘gelled’. Sitting in the car around the corner from the foster carer’s home, I felt sick! But things went well. We spent an hour or two with her and her foster carer, observing her and getting a sense of her personality. When we left, we knew it felt right.

Matching Panel quickly followed. Just a couple of weeks later, Introductions began, and we knew our daughter was coming home.

 

Life today

It might sound strange, but our lives now don’t seem very different from before. We still do the things we enjoyed doing, we just have to factor in the needs of a toddler these days!  It’s also a relief to be free from paperwork – for several months during the adoption process, your whole life is taken up with forms, assessments, training etc. Now, we’re free to get on with the family life we wanted at the start of the process – and it’s wonderful.

We’ve already attended some of the family social events at SFCS, and we know these will be valuable to our daughter as she grows up. It’s important for her to understand that there are other adopted children out there – she’s not alone.

 

Advice for trans adopters

I’d like to say ‘Don’t worry’ to any trans people who are considering adoption, but if we hadn’t been cautious at the start of the process, we might not have ended up adopting with SFCS – we might just have gone to our LA without thinking about it. So I would definitely advise doing lots of research, and attending a few information events, just to see what vibe you get from the various agencies. You’ll know when you’ve found the right agency for you. We have no regrets about adopting with SFCS and would definitely recommend them to other trans people who might be thinking about adopting.

And finally… don’t rule yourself out, and don’t go into the process expecting problems and obstacles. Adoption makes sense for many trans people, and being trans is not a barrier to adopting.

 

If you are considering adoption, you can find out more about our adoption service here.  You can also check out our adoption resources, read more real adoption stories and find out about our next information events. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we’d love to hear from you.


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