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We were turned down for adoption for being obese

Published Oct 23, 2021, 1:00pm|UpdatedOct 23, 2021, 1:08pm

We were passionate about becoming someone’s mum and a dad (Picture: Jennie Edwards)

What makes a good parent – is it what you do for your child or how you look? 

As far as my wife and I are concerned, it’s down to the way you care for a young person, yet twice now we’ve had our weight brought into question when trying to adopt. 

We only ever considered adoption after trying to conceive for nearly three years and being told we would never be able to have kids naturally. 

The news left us devastated and we left the hospital upset, confused and angry, and feeling as though we’d wasted three precious years trying for a much-wanted child. 

At first my wife and I retreated back to our married, childless life and enjoyed spending time with our six godchildren and the numerous kids in our lives. 

But it still felt like something was missing. 

We were passionate about becoming someone’s mum and a dad, so decided that we’d just need to do it a different way and began exploring adoption. 

When we initially approached our local authority we were told we couldn’t adopt through them as my wife worked for them, but they suggested we try the UK’s largest voluntary adoption agency, Barnardo’s, as they were more lenient towards larger people. 

Until that moment, we had never even considered our size, which admittedly is larger than the average as we both fall into the obese category, to be an obstacle in our journey to become parents and were both left shocked and troubled by the comment.

The pressure it placed on us was unmeasurable. We felt guilty whenever we ate and then there would be tension if one of us lost weight but the other didn’t

Nonetheless we made contact with Barnardo’s and at first nothing was said. We were told we’d be perfect for adoption as we were young and had good jobs.

It was only after a meeting with our area manager a few weeks later that she explained we would need to lose weight, as it was a requirement.

She explained that the medical advisor would reject our application otherwise, as it was important to promote a healthy image to the children we would adopt. At first we challenged it, but they agency insisted it was non-negotiable.

My wife and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly hurt and upset, as we knew our body shape could and would never impact our ability to parent.

We were both given a weight target of a stone to lose, which would be confirmed through medical examinations. 

The pressure it placed on us was unmeasurable. We felt guilty whenever we ate and then there would be tension if one of us lost weight but the other didn’t. At times we even considered giving up as it was so hard. But we were determined to do it as we desperately wanted to be parents. 

Once we’d lost enough weight we were approved by a panel and our profile was placed on the national register. Straight away we were incredibly popular and within days we came across a profile of an incredible young child who was looking for a forever home. 

It wasn’t long before we were in the process of adopting and the second we finally brought our child home, all the stresses we’d faced disappeared.

From the off, we enjoyed as much physical activity as our ‘thin’ friends with their children and our size never impacted us as parents in any way.

Almost four years later, we felt we would like to adopt again and that all three of us had a lot of love to offer another child.  

We approached Barnardo’s again and were thrilled to be working with our amazing social worker who we felt became a close friend during our first process and built a strong relationship with.  

It also feels so cruel in a society that is challenging prejudice, promoting acceptance to all and encouraging people to be themselves, that this doesn’t apply when it comes to adoption

Once again, the matter of our weight was raised, as our size had crept up again since our first adoption. It felt so hurtful given we were approved adopters and yet it was still an issue.

Our child is a fit and healthy, and above age related percentiles in every category. We spend countless hours playing in the parks and going for long walks to the beach without issue, so we know that our size has never impacted on them. 

Of course, my wife and I both believe we need to offer the best for our children and that should be a priority to every parent, but surely the potential worth of a mum or a dad shouldn’t be based on their body shape?

It also feels cruel that in a society which likes to challenge prejudice, promote acceptance to all and encourage people to be themselves, this doesn’t apply when it comes to adoption.

We both work in sectors where we see a range of parents, and some incredibly poor at the role. Being treated with such discrimination feels quite unnecessary given the number of children who are desperate for forever homes with amazing people who have great abilities to parent – but are held back by this disgusting and unfair treatment. 

But we know these are not just guidelines exclusive to Barnado’s, many local authorities have them, too – although my wife has come across literature online from one local authority that challenges the thinking of size and dismissed such requirements, saying weight couldn’t be a reason to prevent a person from adopting, which makes everything all the more frustrating.

I’ve spoken to other people desperate to adopt who have had to film themselves at the gym to appease the medical advisor that ultimately makes the call on whether they are a ‘fit’ parent. 

While I wholeheartedly agree that the needs of the child is the paramount concern and perhaps matching them with a person with life limiting illness could raise questions, it’s simply unnecessary to do so based on someone’s BMI.

Now, we’re in the process of taking our medical exams again so they have a document record of our weight and then we will then have to demonstrate loss as we progress through the process. 

It’s absolutely devastating to find ourselves in this position again.

However, until the situation changes, it doesn’t matter that we know we’re brilliant parents regardless of our size. My wife and I understand that if we want to adopt another child, we will need to lose weight. We just wish we didn’t have to. 

A Barnardo’s spokesperson said: ‘We cannot comment on individual applications from prospective adopters. When considering whether someone is suitable to adopt, Barnardo’s looks at many aspects of their lives including their health. This will include an assessment by a qualified medical consultant, who may make recommendations for lifestyle changes to improve their health and wellbeing. We have a duty to ensure that prospective adopters are healthy before they adopt as our priority is ensuring long-term stability for vulnerable children who are waiting for a family.

This piece was originally published in October 2020

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