Gareth Peter and his partner Mark with their two sons Anthony and Noah. (Provided)
To celebrate World Adoption Day, we speak to Gareth Peter, a gay man who is a proud dad to two children.
Gareth Peter always knew he wanted to be a dad, but growing up under Section 28 made him think he would never have the chance to fulfil his dreams.
Now, he is the proud dad of two boys, Anthony and Noah. It was a dream come true for Gareth, 40, and his partner Mark, 38, who live in Nottingham. Both men knew from the time they met all the way back in 2004 that they wanted to give a second chance to children who had been born into difficult family circumstances.
Their journey culminated with them adopting Anthony in 2015. Two years later, Noah joined their family, completing their tight-knit family unit. Looking back, Gareth says it was the best thing they ever did.
“I knew I wanted to be a dad from when I was about 14, and that kind of stayed with me forever, really, right up until I became an adult,” Gareth tells PinkNews. “Because of Section 28, we never learned about gay people at school, I never knew any gay friends, nobody was out, nobody was open. I just had this horrible feeling that I was going to be weird forever and that I’d never be a dad.”
It wasn’t until Gareth started his first “proper adult relationship” when he was in his early twenties that the idea of starting a family came up in conversation.
“We started our relationship in 2004, and in 2002 it became legal for same-sex couples to adopt. For us, it wasn’t just moving with the wave of change – it felt right for us, but it was now something we were able to do.
“Originally my partner and I discussed the different ways you can become a family and we even talked about surrogacy, but I think my partner being a social worker and me just loving children, the idea of making a home for a child that needs a new start, who has had a bit of a rough upbringing, that has had parents that weren’t able to look after them, that became an important idea, because we’re getting what we want and we can do something for that little one. So that is when we decided to adopt and we approached one of the local authorities in our area.”
Everything ‘slotted into place’ for Gareth and Mark – but the adoption process wasn’t always easy
Gareth and Mark had to overcome a number of hurdles to start their family. They had to contend with financial and background checks and the couple were grilled on their “parenting ethos” as part of the application process.
“Hopefully if you pass that you go into stage two where they talk to your family and friends, a very thorough background and police check is done on you. They look at past relationships even and if you pass that, you go to a panel where about eight different people make the decision based on a report compiled during stage one and two. If you’re successful, the panel says yes, and you are approved to adopt which is great because then is when your journey actually starts. You then have to work with a social worker and be matched to a child that fits your family life and is right for the child and for the new adoptive parents.”
Gareth and Mark got to the matching stage, where a prospective parent is matched up with a child, on two occasions before they managed to successfully adopt. Both of those matches failed because of issues that the social workers failed to resolve, Gareth says.
“It was a bit sad but it was OK because, as I say, third time lucky. We met our absolutely amazing son and we had two amazing years with him before we decided to adopt another single child so he could have a brother.”
New parents face an enormous adjustment when they welcome children into their lives – but Gareth says the transition was actually much easier than he anticipated.
“I’m sure there’s a moment when every parent kind of goes: ‘Goodness me, we’ve now got a child, what are we going to do? We’ve got to do everything we can to feed, clothe them and keep them alive.’
I’m sure every parent thinks that. And to a certain extent, yes, we did feel that, but it kind of felt a lot easier. We didn’t necessarily have the sleepless nights, the getting up at three o’clock in the morning to give them bottles and things.”
They bypassed those early stages because Anthony was one-years-old when they adopted him, meaning he already had his own routine. “Everything just slotted into place,” Gareth says.
When you find your star, you know – and I’ve got two of them at home with me now.
The dynamic changed when they adopted Noah two years later. “Our family unit had a certain pattern, a certain way of working, and then you bring a completely different child in with different needs and you find that there are clashes and different ways of working that can be a little bit complex and challenging at times. But again, it’s about settling into a rhythm and a way of working that is good for everybody. Every child is different, and even if you had two different birth children, they would be very different characters with different needs as well. You learn to grow, develop and adjust. I think parenting is about adjusting, actually.”
Adoption is something many LGBT+ people, both single and in couples, think about as they move into adult life – and Gareth knows many people will be nervous about the prospect. It might seem like an insurmountable challenge – but he says the process is entirely worth it.
“If you have got a steady, stable, safe home life and you’ve been with your partner for a considerable amount of time, you should absolutely go for it. For me, it answered one of my dreams, and I know that there are lots of LGBT+ people out there that also have these dreams, so don’t hold back. Make sure it’s something that you really, really want to do.
“The reason I said about having a steady and stable relationship for a considerable amount of time is, I think there were several LGBT+ people who got rejected because they hadn’t been together long enough, which is absolutely bonkers. I realise you can meet someone on a one-night stand, get pregnant, and literally you’ve been together nine months before they’ve had a child in the outside world. But they want you to have a proven relationship and you know each other back to front. They ask you so many questions about your life and your past, so you have to know each other well.”
Looking back on their journey to parenthood, Gareth says he has absolutely no regrets.
“I would do it again tomorrow if we wanted to have another child,” he says. “You are also, by adopting, giving a child a chance, a home, some joy that they may not get where they are at the moment.”
Gareth Peter has written a kids’ book about two dads finding their ‘forever star’
In addition to being a parent, Gareth is also a children’s book writer. He has written two books dealing with LGBT+ adoption – My Daddies and Forever Star. He wrote both books out of necessity, he says.
“There aren’t many books out there about adoption itself and there are even fewer about LGBT+ adoption, so I felt that it was imperative to have a book that talked about the adoption journey, from initial idea to actually finding a child, going through the different processes, and then having that child live with you,” he says.
“The thing that makes this book unique is I ask the question: can a child have two dads? And the answer is: absolutely. My favourite line is: ‘Children want safety, they need to feel love in a home that fits snugly like wearing a glove. It just shouldn’t matter how parents are paired, as long as that love is eternally shared.’ It’s my favourite section because that’s the ethos of the book itself.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, if you can give a child a new start, love, affection, attention and safety, that is all a child needs to thrive. In Forever Star, you go on this space journey with these two guys called Tim, who find their forever family – or as my book calls it, their forever star, because I like the metaphor that all the stars in the sky represent all the beautiful children that are out there. When you find your star, you know – and I’ve got two of them at home with me now.”
Forever Star and My Daddies by Gareth Peter are published by Puffin.