John & Scott
John and Scott are both currently serving in the Royal Navy. Not long after getting married in 2016, they adopted brothers Tom (five) and Edward (seven)* through the SSAFA Adoption Service.
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When John and Scott decided they were ready to start a family of their own, asking SSAFA to support them through the adoption process "seemed like an obvious choice", explains John, "because regular postings and deployments can make it really difficult for serving personnel to adopt, but the SSAFA Adoption Service works across local authority boundaries.
"SSAFA understands how the military operates," he continues. "So when we were having these very long, in-depth interviews with (SSAFA Senior Social Work Practitioner)Rose, she just got it. She understood that in a couple of years we might have to move with our jobs. I think explaining that to a local authority adoption service would have been harder.
The couple were ultimately approved to adopt two siblings in January 2017 and an emotional search followed.
"I've found our children!"
"I think it must have been 11 o' clock at night and John saw the boys' profile on the website and just said ‘I’ve found our children!’," laughs Scott. "I remember jumping around in excitement. We called Rose and she got back to us that night. She was with us all the way through our search. She's amazing - who else would put up with us getting in touch at 11pm?”
The children's social worker met the couple and told them they might have to wait some time for an answer as other potential adopters were also being considered. However, the very next day they received a call to say they had been successful. Less than six months after being approved as adopters, John and Scott met brothers Tom and Edward for the first time.
A carefree summer
"Rose had prepared us really well and the SSAFA preparation group we attended was phenomenal too, says John. "It was a great opportunity to meet other couples going through the same process."
John, a Lieutenant Commander, took six months adoption leave from his job, while Scott, a Leading Hand, had four weeks paternity leave which he supplemented with extra leave.
"That summer was like a honeymoon period," recalls John. "We had saved money to do all these fun things to keep the boys occupied."
Scott adds: "It was one of the most carefree times of my adult life - which is strange really, but it was just all about keeping the boys happy, and they were."
John and Scott had been well prepared for any challenges they might face, but found that the transition went relatively smoothly. "The boys made it easy for us," says John. "They were so ready and well-prepared for the adoption." The couple had put together a photo album of the boys' birth family and answered any questions the boys had openly and honestly.
Scott goes on: "They have each other, which I think helps (the transition) massively. In the very early days of bringing them home Edward would say 'where’s my brother?' a lot - he needed reassurance that Tom was near. While Tom has previously had a lot of responsibility, so it was important for us to let him be a child again."
The nerve-racking wait
After a year, John and Scott applied for the official Adoption Order and, after many nerve-racking delays in the court proceedings, the application was finally granted several months later. Throughout that time, the family could rely on Rose for support. "She was there every step of the way," recalls John, "explaining everything to all four of us."
Far from being a problem, the couple believe that their military background has benefited them as adoptive parents. John explains: "Being in the military makes you adaptable and it also helps you to make the best of whatever situation you are in."
Scott adds: "The Royal Navy are really flexible and very supportive so I was able to move jobs when John did, which is another huge benefit of being in the military."
A new chapter begins
SSAFA also offers comprehensive post-adoption support - another aspect of the service that the couple value as they prepare to say goodbye to Rose. Scott says: "Rose will stop being our caseworker soon, but we know we will always be able to rely on SSAFA’s post-adoption support service if we need it."
For now, they are just enjoying being a family. "Our parents are all just over the moon about being grandparents and I can honestly say that having the boys has just completed us," smiles Scott. "They are gorgeous boys with lovely personalities and people just warm to them. We're very lucky."
* Names have been changed
Find out more about SSAFA's Adoption Service.