“THERE have been challenges, but they are no different to the challenges faced by our friends with biological children, and the enjoyment, excitement and delight is the same, too."

When Pete and Chris Kirby-Bowstead met 12 years ago they did not think they would be having a family together.

But after after moving in together, getting engaged, and then married, they felt adopting a child was the next step. They are now parents to biological siblings Matthew and Amber.

Chris, a respiratory charge nurse at James Cook University Hospital, and Pete, a deputy headteacher, have shared their story as part of National Adoption Week.

The Northern Echo:

“The process of adopting a child makes you reflect on your own life and values, and really exposes who you are and your relationship together,” said Chris. “During that process, I think there was nothing that we didn’t know about each other. In the end, the social workers knew us better than our friends.

"They looked at our values, social lives, lifestyle and financial stability to make sure that we would make suitable parents and were ready for the responsibility.

“But throughout it all, our social workers were incredibly supportive. We weren’t treated differently because we were a same sex couple. Anyone can become adoptive parents – if they can provide a safe, loving and stable home.”

The Northern Echo:

Chris admitted that when Matthew went to live with them, it was a steep learning curve, but they had the social workers and their wider family to support them.

“We couldn’t have been happier,” said Chris. “We knew this little boy needed us and we just showered him in the love and care that he needed. We quickly relaxed into it.”

When Matthew was four, Adoption Tees Valley called Chris and Pete to inform them that Matthew’s biological parents were expecting another baby. With the parents unable to look after her, they were asked if they would like to foster the new baby from birth, with a plan to later adopt.

“It was a no brainer. Of course, we said ‘yes’,” said Chris.

“We knew how important it would be for Matthew’s identity and emotional well-being to be with his biological sibling – that was a relationship that would prove crucial to him growing up – so we didn’t even need to think about it. And we had always said we would adopt again, anyway.”

The couple fostered Amber from being a baby and went on to adopt her later that year. Both of their children have additional special needs, but both are progressing well and getting a lot of support from Adoption Tees Valley and other services.

“It’s been an incredible journey and life changing for all four of us,” said Pete.

“Matthew and Amber have brought so much to our lives. Adoption made our family complete. There have been challenges, but they are no different to the challenges faced by our friends with biological children, and the enjoyment, excitement and delight is the same, too."

“I would say that if you are interested in adoption, go along to one of Adoption Tees Valley’s information events. You have nothing to lose, and it could change your life.”

'We couldn’t imagine not having her in our lives'

Simon and Ellen Cross, who live just outside Middlesbrough, became adoptive parents four years ago and now could not imagine life without her.

The couple already had an eight-year-old girl when they decided to enquire about adoption after enduring two failed rounds of IVF.

Desperate for another child, they called Middlesbrough Council and began their journey with Adoption Tees Valley. Four years on, the couple are all smiles as they talk about their “noisy, full of life” youngest child, who, after a very tough start, is happy, content and making huge strides in her development and schooling.'

The Northern Echo:

“She has come so far since being placed with foster carers at just three-months-old,” said Ellen, 42. “When we were first introduced to her, she was ten months old, and had already experienced so much trauma in her short life, how could we not love her?

“She hadn’t had a great start, but her foster carer had been wonderful, so she was happy and loved, and in a good routine. She was a little bit behind in her development, but that was to be expected.”

Introductions were gradual, but over the weeks Simon and Ellen, and their eldest daughter, spent more and more time with the baby, so when she did come to live with them, everyone felt comfortable, and she was already a part of their family.

“It felt natural,” added Ellen.

However, after their baby turned one, the couple noticed she wasn’t meeting her developmental milestones and a range of support services were put in place, arranged through Adoption Tees Valley.

And to compound the situation, an earlier medical procedure had been unsuccessful, and their baby now required a more complicated, major operation. It was a big set-back the family had not anticipated.

“It was a very difficult time, but we had tremendous support from family and friends, and from Adoption Tees Valley, which continues to support us to this day,” said Simon.

“Our daughter recovered from the operation, and gradually made progress and got stronger, and although she still needs some extra support now, she is doing incredibly well. She’s just like any other little girl, jumping about the place. She rules the roost.”

Simon said when you adopt a child, social workers are there to help and support you every step the way – even after the adoption becomes legal.

“The support doesn’t stop after you bring the child home,” he said. “Adoption Tees Valley has been invaluable to us.”

Simon encouraged others to consider adopting. However, he said the training and preparation sessions at the start of the process should not be underestimated.

“The training was very powerful,” said the 54-year-old. “It challenged our perceptions and made sure that we were truly prepared. We met with birth parents and talked with other people who had adopted.

“They really left no stone unturned and focused on all aspects of our life, from our relationship with each other and our eldest daughter, to our childhood experiences. It was thorough and, at times, challenging, but I enjoyed every bit of the process. Adoption is about children’s lives, so it had to be rigorous.”

Ellen encouraged anyone thinking about adoption to pick up the phone and to call Adoption Tees Valley.

“Our daughter has brought so much to us, as a family, we couldn’t imagine not having her in our lives,” Ellen said. “We love her in the same way that we love our eldest daughter. We just want to wrap her up and protect her.”

For information about Adoption Tees Valley, email info@adoptionteesvalley.org.uk or call 01642 526400.

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