Military adopters John and Scott share their story.
For anyone looking to adopt a child, there is a plethora of tests and trials that you have to overcome in order to become an adoptive parent. But for a same-sex couple working in the military, the challenges are even greater.
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After getting married last year, John and Scott decided that they were ready to take the next step and start a family of their own. However, their careers in the Royal Naval Medical Service meant that this would be no simple task.
“Scott and I first met at Manchester PRIDE back in 2009,” John says. “I was working as a Health Physicist in the Submarine Service, and he was in the Logistics branch, serving on board HMS Albion. However, our relationship didn’t properly spark until a short while later when Scott, coincidently, started working in Her Majesty’s Naval Base in Clyde, where I had been based for quite some time.
“Even though we had to spend long periods of time apart while we were deployed or drafted to different areas of the country, we managed to make a success of our relationship. We got married last year in October, and are now living happily in Birmingham together.”
Scott adds: “Starting a family of our own is something that we discussed for years, but only really started to talk about it seriously after we got engaged. It felt like a natural thing to do following on from getting married, and adopting children who need a stable, caring, and loving home just seemed like the perfect thing for us to do.
“But, despite our good intentions, everyone knows that adopting within the military community is never an easy task. Regular postings and deployments can make it really difficult for serving personnel to adopt through local authorities. The process has a rigorous assessment program and background check, so it can be a challenge to prove that you are able to provide a stable home environment for a child – especially if you work in the Navy like us where there is an increased chance of being deployed.”
John says: “Asking SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, to support us through the adoption process seemed like an obvious choice. The charity runs an independent adoption agency, called the SSAFA Adoption Service, which works across local authority boundaries to provide support for aspiring adopters within the military community.
“We had received some really positive recommendations from people who had adopted through the SSAFA Adoption Service in the past, and were confident that they would help us to win our case, as they understood the particular challenges that we would face during the adoption proceedings.”
Scott says: “Shortly after our engagement we decided to set up a meeting with a SSAFA social worker, just to discuss the adoption process in more detail and to make sure that it was definitely a path we wanted to take. From that initial meeting we knew that were ready to become parents and wanted to start the process immediately.
“Stage 1 of the adoption process was fairly straight-forward, but involved a lot of hefty paperwork. We started this in December 2015 and had completed everything by April 2016.
“Later in June, we attended a mandatory Prep-Group course. We were really nervous about attending this, especially as we were a same-sex couple, however we needn’t have been as there were two other same-sex couples there too. The interactive exercises that they taught at the Prep-Group were really useful, and by the end of the week we knew that we were making the right decision to adopt.”
John says: “After Stage 1 came Stage 2 – the dreaded interviews! We didn’t know exactly what to expect or how intrusive these would be, but we had already formed a fantastic professional relationship with our SSAFA Social Worker, so every interview felt effortless and like we were just talking about ourselves to a friend.
“After passing Stage 2 in the New Year, we went to meet the Adoption Panel at the SSAFA Head Quarters on 24 January 2017 to hear the final verdict. The hour that we were there went so fast. We sat anxiously waiting in the rest area whilst our social worker was presenting her case for us to the panel. When we were finally invited in, everyone was so positive, warm and reassuring. We were told that our adoption request had been successful, which was met with smiles, tears and a big hug from our social worker.”
Scott says: “Now, a few months on, we are in the ‘matching’ stage and are searching for our children. At the beginning of our adoption journey, we thought that we wanted to adopt one child aged between 0 – 3 years old. However, by the end of Stage 1 we had changed our minds, and we are now looking to adopt siblings between the age of 0 – 6.
“Yes, we are prepared for disappointment, as we know that there are many loving and caring potential adoptive parents out there – but we also know that our perfect match is out there somewhere.
“When we finally find our ‘Forever Family’, John will be taking up to 12 months’ adoption leave, and I will be continuing with my studies (following my paternity leave of course). The Armed Forces have an excellent policy that will support us as a family, and we have been given lots of invaluable advice throughout the adoption process which we will take forward with us.”
John says: “We couldn’t have asked for more from both our social worker and all of the team that work in the SSAFA HQ. Every telephone call and email has been answered promptly and we have felt fully supported throughout the process.
“It has been a long and challenging process, but it is worth every minute just to give a loving home to our ‘forever family’!”