FOR many years, same-sex couple Paul and Ian Harmer-Draper from Chichester yearned to become parents.
But three-and-a-half years ago, Barnardo’s helped them realise that dream when they adopted brothers, aged two and four.
It also meant the two boys – who had been living with different foster parents – could finally be reunited.
Ian, 47, a school governor, has been with partner Paul, 44, an MD of an electronics business, for 17 years. They contacted nine local authorities in their search to adopt before a friend recommended calling Barnardo’s.
The pair have spoken about their positive experience in the run-up to the tenth anniversary since the Adoption and Children Act 2 came into force, giving equal rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples as heterosexual adopters.
Ian said: “Within two weeks we’d had a home visit by Barnardo’s, a date for our training course and a social worker assigned to us. It was really impressive.”
Less than a year later the couple were approved to be adopters and after 18 months, the brothers were placed in their care.
Ian said: “We’d talked about adopting for five years, so when it finally happened, it felt incredible.
“So far parenting has been a hugely rewarding and challenging experience. Like any parents, we have good and bad days and sometimes we get some things wrong.
“But the boys are very settled and happy. They’ve been with us longer than anyone else now.
“They’re at a fantastic school, they have their own bedrooms, bicycles and we are lucky enough that we can afford to take them on foreign holidays.
“They came from a very chaotic lifestyle in an inner-city location and now they live in the countryside near the sea and have stability.”
Ian and Paul are fortunate to have a hugely-supportive family and a strong network of friends. They have had only positive feedback to being same-sex adopters.
“We were a novelty at first at the school gate, but now we fit in like everyone else at parents’ evening,” said Paul.
“Other parents have been very encouraging,” added Ian, who now volunteers with Barnardo’s, helping to find the right children for approved adopters.
When they heard Barnardo’s was the lead sponsor of LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, which ran last week, they felt it was important to share their experience to make other same-sex couples aware that they can adopt.
Ian adds: “There’s still a lot of lesbian and gay people who don’t realise it’s possible to start their own family.
“So LGBT week is really important to get that message across. As life becomes more and more diverse, the make-up of modern families is changing, too.”