We had now had our first meeting with Kelly, and it had gone well. We wondered how it was going to take too long, as it seemed to be quite an easy process, to us! Again, we were a little naive, we should not have really judged our first meeting as the way it would go every time! We had organised with Kelly the next few meetings, and we had to organise finishing work early for a few of them. Thankfully, as we had been very honest with our Employers, it was very easy to get, and the team that I managed were very understanding and keen to help.
I think it is worth giving our Employers a quick mention too. Whether it was a heterosexual couple or a same sex couple adopting, you are still entitled to the same benefits. I don't suppose it is very much different from a normal pregnancy. In my case, my Employer had their own statement on Pregnancy and Adoption, and it was not the best. All I would be able to claim if I took 6 months Adoption Leave would have been statutory benefit which I think was £117.50 per week. Not a lot really in the grand scheme of things, however, being in Retail, it is only to be expected.
Tris on the other hand was very lucky his employers Adoption and Pregnancy statements both gave 6 months full paid! Very lucky indeed. As I say, we were both very lucky, as both of our direct Managers were very understanding at this point, even though we could give them no guarantees back then, because we did not know ourselves, however, if we were lucky enough we would need to be asking for time off at some point for the children.
Anyway, back to Kelly and her visits. Each and every one that we had made us a little nervous, but we also felt one step closer every time the sessions finished. It would be impossible to write down all of the topics we covered, but as always, it was just like talking to an old friend! There were the obvious things like:
1) Childhood - A long and in-depth look at how we were brought up, our relationships with peers/siblings/teachers/parents etc.
2) School - What we achieved, were we bullied, did we enjoy it.
3) Family - How our relationships were with the family and in-laws, Sibling relationships in Adulthood, what their opinions on us Adopting were.
4) Work - What we did, where we did it, our work relationships.
5) Sexuality - When we came out, how we did it, peoples reactions, how confident we were about our sexualities, how did we mend any relationships that had a problem with sexuality?
6) Relationship - Quite a big one, and one that was covered again and again, probably to ensure we answered all of the questions the same! It was about us after all, and Kelly needed to check we were the people we said we were!
7) Infertility - Ok, this one will sound weird, but actually, we both had to explain to Kelly how we had come to terms with our Infertility. When Kelly first asked this question we were perplexed and confused. How could a gay man be infertile without even checking if he actually was! Well, after she explained it we understood it - you have to be committed to Adoption, and not turn round half way through and think - maybe we could try surrogacy! So, this was a big big question, one that is asked of all applicants, whether gay or straight. It was also one that made us think long and hard about what we were doing!
There was one item that cropped up that caused a lot of soul searching for Tris, and quite a heated debate for us both, in front of Kelly! Tris and I had had a Commitment Ceremony with our friends and family on 10th May 2003. We signed the London Partnership Register and had a fantastic reception in a 5 star Hotel close to our family home in Norfolk. At that point in time, it was being considered that if "gay marriage" was ever made legal that the Partnership Ceremony would automatically become the marriage, with no further work to be done. Unfortunately Ken Livingston fell out with Tony Blair, and it was not included in the roll out when Civil Partnerships were born.
Not a problem, we'd have to do it all again, before we had any children. This in turn would include our ability to change our surname without having to do it by Deed Poll. Kelly asked the question, "What will your surname be?"
The words "hornets, nest and opened" spring to mind. Three hours later we were still debating why we should both change our names. I was quite prepared to change my name to that of Tris's family surname; however, he was not prepared to do anything with his. I was telling Kelly this, and rightly, she said, why should I change my name to Tris's? He should be prepared to compromise (not something he does very easily!), and to accept that as we are two males, neither of us should give up our identity. It was then that she got to the bottom of it!
Tris was indeed trying to maintain his identity in full, did not think he should change it and did not want to. However, under the circumstances, there was something else not quite right. Kelly put it to Tris that he considered himself the carrier of the family name, and as such felt obliged to keep the name going. What he had not considered was that Adopting a child, also meant that the children need to feel fully part of their new family - which includes a surname that has something to do with both their new parents. Obviously, as Civil Partnerships are not identical to marriages, everything was going to be different, so we discussed being different. Different is a double-barrelled name, and this started another unfortunate debate about double-barrelled names being too pretentious!! It took a few weeks for Tris to come round to it all, and a lot of debating once Kelly had gone! In fact, I think I remember being told by Tris that I was going against him at one point - I wasn't, I was just trying to make him realise that I had an identity too, and if I could I would like our children to have both our names.
Those are just some of the things we were asked, and I would need to go to our Prospective Adopters Report to see more (If you need further info, then contact me and I will be happy to hunt it out for you!).
Back at the beginning we were told our assessment would take 8 months, so that would have taken us to September. By September we were not any further on than we had been 2 months earlier! We were now getting a little worried, and spoke to Kelly about this. Again, she explained that there were no problems; she was really just trying to cover everything she could to ensure absolute clarity when we did eventually get to Panel. She promised us that it would only take a few more visits and we would be there. Previous to that, we daren't ask, as we thought that we might have been being a little paranoid - AGAIN!!!
So, only a few more visits, we were nearly there then?