Adoption UK - 50th Anniversary

Adoption UK 50 Years logoAdoption UK is 50! 

50 is a big milestone, and an opportunity to pause, reflect and plan for the futureFor 50 years we have supported, advocated, championed and been there for adoptive families around the UK.

Today our cause is as clear and compelling as ever; to secure the right support at the right time for the children at the heart of every adoptive and kinship care family.  

For Adoption UK, this all began in 1971, when Elvis Presley and The Jackson 5 were in the charts, a gallon of petrol was 33p and two adopters starting running a voluntary organisation from their homes, for adopted children with special needsAdoption has changed a lot since then, and so have we. 

Contact us at [email protected]

Ben and FamilyI’ve adopted six children all with complex needs.

I was 21 when I started the adoption process. I’d never sought a relationship, but I’d always wanted to be a father. I was told I was the youngest and first single, gay, male adopter at my local authority in Yorkshire.

My dad was a vicar, and I was brought up in rural Wales. When I was 15 I was brought to Yorkshire and started going out with friends, experiencing nightlife and parties. By the time I got to 21 I’d started to calm down and think that I wanted to become a parent. I’d worked with children and adults with complex needs, so I knew adopting children with additional needs was my niche.

At panel I didn’t get a 'yes' or 'no' - it was a 50/50. At the time my world crashed. I thought it was the end of the road, but my social worker told me the independent decision maker can overrule the decision, so to leave it with her. She rang me the following week and told me I’d been approved.

About two months went by and then I had a phone call from my social worker who told me the local authority had a little boy in mind for me. He had additional needs and was very quirky. They were querying whether he was autistic. When I met Jack, I was really taken with him but then panel said he was not the right match for me. But again, the independent decision maker said Jack deserved a chance with me.

Eleven years later, Jack is a 14-year-old boy who is thriving in mainstream school. He is my world, as are all my kids.

I have a great rapport with Jack’s birth mother which is quite unusual. She suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and the medication she was on can cause learning difficulties for babies in the womb and stunt their growth. Jack also has OCD which was linked to his autism. As a result, he is routine-driven.

When I went back to my local authority to adopt a second child, I was approved unanimously within eight months as an adopter for a little girl aged up to three. After an initial match fell through, I was invited to an information day which was where I saw Ruby’s profile. I knew she was going to be my daughter.

When the social workers came to talk to me about Ruby, they told me her birth mother was about to give birth to another child so would I consider this child as well? At this time my main concern was that Ruby’s needs were met. Ruby had been in an amazing foster home, as had Jack, but I didn’t feel it was the right time to adopt her sister Lilly as well, because Ruby had attachment issues. Ruby is severely visually impaired, and her hearing is also impaired. She’s epileptic, has foetal alcohol syndrome, learning difficulties and radial dysplasia (missing radius bones).

It was a big upheaval for Ruby, now aged 11, and it took a long time for her to settle because of the differences and smells and because I have to feed her through a tube into her stomach. But as soon as it clicked it was great.

Lilly, now aged nine, came to stay with us seven years ago. The social workers hadn’t picked up that she was profoundly deaf with no speech.

I then adopted Joseph at the beginning of September 2015. Joseph was four weeks old at the time. He was a relinquished baby. He’s British Chinese and has Down’s Syndrome. He’s now six and suffers very badly with his chest as his immune system is very low.

In November 2019 my fifth child, Teddy passed away. He had a rare genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange syndrome, but he died from sepsis and not as a result of his complex needs.

In April last year, I brought home my sixth adopted child, two-year-old Louis, who has cerebral palsy and is blind.

Adopting children with additional needs doesn’t have to mean the end of your social life – it can actually enhance it. I’ve seen and done more things with the children than I would have done before adopting them. It has opened up a lot of doors for me. My attitude is ‘they’ve got a disability - so what? We’re going to do it!’ Having a family has improved my life as well as my children’s.

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