A gay couple have urged others to consider adoption after seeing their son take his first steps towards starting school.
Mark Haillay and Owen Joiner, who live in Washington, adopted Anthony when he was 14 months old, in 2011, after lengthy discussions about starting a family.
Like all couples, Mark and Owen were apprehensive when they first registered their interest with the local adoption agency, but three years later, the family is thriving and Anthony is looking forward to starting school in September.
Mark said: “In 2010, Owen and I began our adoption journey with a tentative phone call to a local authority and there we met our worker Jill Duffy.
“Important factors for us were that we had confidence and trust in the workers there who would help us find our child and ultimately support us through to the point of adoption.
“Jill and her colleagues instantly put us at ease with their friendly nature and the fact they recognised that the gay community is a valuable, and largely untapped, resource of adopters.”
Owen said it was important to dispel old myths about who could adopt, with more than 6,000 children nationally waiting for families.
“I would advise same-sex couples interested in adopting a child to do so,” he said. “I know there are many myths surrounding same-sex adoption, but we were never treated any differently or seen as a second-best option.
“At nursery, Anthony is treated exactly the same as his peers. I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘normal’ family anyway. Many of Anthony’s friends come from single-parent backgrounds, ethnic minorities, or are with foster parents.
“Like all parents, we worry about how Anthony will fit in at ‘big’ school, but he’s confident and bubbly so I think he’ll do well.
“We’re now looking towards adopting another child so Anthony can have a little brother or sister.”
Representatives from ARC Adoption, based in Sunderland, had a stand at Newcastle Pride last month, to showcase the agency’s services.
More than 20,000 people attended the three-day annual festival which aims to reduce homophobia and promote awareness of equality.
Terry Fitzpatrick, director of ARC, believed the event was an opportunity to network with potential parents and establish the agency’s presence in the region.
He said: “It’s a really encouraging sign to learn that the number of same-sex adoptions have doubled in the last three years and now make up 6% of adopters available to children waiting for families, but we’re always keen to build on this to help match one of the 6,000 children nationally who are in need of a positive family life.”