Phil's story

Phil shares his family's story of special guardianship

It’s a bit weird to talk about how many children you want to have on the first date, but that’s where I found myself the night I met my wife Ici. Ici had been in care growing up, and she wanted to make sure, before she even gave me a chance, that I was at least open to the idea of growing my family through fostering or adoption. As luck would have it, I’d already been thinking about adoption for a long time. In my life I had seen a lot of men who weren’t responsible father figures, and that had always bothered me. It broke my heart that there were children growing up without a solid-rock of a dad in their life. I wanted to do something to change that.

We became special guardians for my nephew Jordan* when Ici’s sister sadly passed away very suddenly. We already had two birth children at this point, so I had gotten used to having children in the house. But I quickly learnt that it was a different story when that child doesn’t share your mannerisms, your character traits, your temper, even your sense of humour. With our first two, I could usually predict how they would react to certain situations, usually because it was like me or like their mum. It was strange to not have that with Jordan, and it was a learning curve for us all. But we worked our way through, and Jordan settled into our home and family. He’s an incredible boy, and we couldn’t be prouder of him.

Some time later, we began to think about growing our family a little further. We began exploring adoption, and after some time we were matched with Chantelle* who was three years old at the time. She had nearly been adopted a number of times, but each time something changed at the last minute, so she had been in foster care for longer than anyone had hoped.

I was ok with the actual adoption process itself but I won’t lie, it was a stressful time over all as we decided to move house right in the middle of it all. We had found a house that we felt would be a great home for our family. It was in our budget, which felt like a miracle for a family of soon-to-be six in London. But it needed lots of work done before we could live in it. So, while we prepared to welcome another person into our family, I was arranging for new floorboards to be laid. As a man, a husband, and a father, I think I can feel a heightened sense of responsibility to carry my family; to be that solid rock for them to lean on. These roles I’ve found myself in are a real honour and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but they are also difficult at times too. I’m not sure we’re always very good at talking about those difficult times.

Chantelle joined our family, and again we were faced with unpredictability alongside the joys. Some of the behaviours that felt pretty normal for a three-year-old stuck around as she got older, and we realised that they were rooted in her early trauma, so we’ve been working together with her to support her and care for her in navigating that. She’s coming into her teen years now, and she’s beginning to have questions about who she is, what is her background and how she fits into her family. It’s meant we’ve become very open as a family; we talk about things honestly and, at times, bluntly, because the things our children have questions about are part of who they are. We want to honour those questions with an answer, rather than hiding away from them and allowing that child to believe that they’ve done something wrong.

Our family today is a unique one, to say the least – we have our birth children, who are brother and sister. Jordan is their cousin. Chantelle is siblings with all of them. Sometimes I’m dad, sometimes I’m uncle – I answer to pretty much anything. I’m not sure it’s what either of us had in mind when we started discussing kids on our first date, but we’re here and we’re thankful for the privilege of caring for four fantastic kids.

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