For Malcolm and wife Shelley, it was vitally important to adopt brothers Kieron, now 22, and his brother Tyler, 21, together. The two boys have grown into adults that make their parents proud every day
At just two years old, Kieron Atherton knew how to use and control a lighter after his heroin-addicted mother had taught him how to heat up her drugs.
But thanks to the loving couple who adopted him, Kieron, now 22, and his brother Tyler, 21, were given a fresh start in life and have grown into adults that make their parents proud every day.
“They’ve brought a lot of love into our lives,” says Malcolm Atherton, 62.
“It was very emotional being able to adopt the boys and becoming their mum and dad. We initially fostered them but loved them to pieces.
“Kieron studied health and social care at college and Tyler recently passed his motor mechanics apprenticeship and is a talented musician who plays guitar and drums. We are extremely proud of them.”
For Malcolm and wife Shelley, it was vitally important for them to adopt both brothers together.
Sibling groups are among the many children judged “harder to place” – but they are not harder to love.
Malcolm, of Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham, adds: “We couldn’t think of anything worse than separating them.
“Children can be split up as people just want to adopt one but they are very close to each other.
“Adopting two children brought twice the fun into our house.”
The true scale of the problem has been laid bare in figures released today.
They show that 65% of children up for adoption are judged harder to place, meaning they wait on average a year longer to be adopted than other kids aged under five.
Those with additional needs, from ethnic minorities and older children are also among that awfully high percentage who have to face long periods in care.
To highlight this, the You Can Adopt group launches its new campaign A Life Less Ordinary tomorrow.
It includes a film where parents talk about the rewards of adopting children who have to wait longer.
It targets potential adopters, asking them to think differently about it.
Adam Rathbone, from Newcastle, adopted his mixed-race son Samad, known as Sam, two, with his husband Daniyal, 33, in March 2021. The pair also appear in the film.
Pharmacy lecturer Adam, 33, says: “After speaking to the adoption agency, we decided we didn’t care about our potential child’s gender or ethnicity, we just wanted to give them a safe, loving home.
“Daniyal and I were very shocked to find out that children who aren’t white wait so much longer to be adopted. We don’t 100% know Sam’s background but we know he is mixed white and South Asian.
“We feel it is important that he will grow up celebrating both sides of his culture and we have our friends from the latter background helping us.”
They first met Sam at his foster home during Covid restrictions.
The couple said while the toddler seemed wary during their initial contact, with their socially-distanced introduction making it even more challenging, he has quickly thrived under the pair’s care.
Adam adds: “He’s got such a funny, cheeky personality.
“We see Sam as the best thing that has ever happened to us. He sees us as his parents now. If we leave the room he gets upset because he just wants to be with us all the time.”
Malcolm and Shelley, 60, also feature in the campaign.
As well as Kieron and Tyler, they are parents to Courtney, 15, who has several disabilities.
The teenager is blind in her right eye, has the spinal condition scoliosis and has problems with her hips. One of her legs is also longer than the other.
With Courtney, Malcolm says there have been challenges with managing her conditions but she has thrived, becoming a gymnastics champion.
He says: “We just fell in love with this bundle of joy straight away.
“When we found out that we were able to adopt her, we were over the moon, it was a very emotional moment. She’s achieved so much.”
Malcolm has fostered several children over the years as well as having his own biological kids.
He was adopted by his aunt Thelma after his mum died when he was just 14 months old and his father had struggled to look after him on his own. Malcolm says taking in children who need a loving home is in his blood because of his own experience.
He adds: “Adopting a child will give you a burst of pride. If anyone is considering it, you should go for it.”
This is a sentiment Adam agrees with, saying: “Before Sam came along, my husband and I were quite career-focused, spending a lot of time at work, but our lives have changed.
“We just want to be at home playing with him all the time and he brings a lot of fun to our lives.
“He has just learned how to say the word love properly, which is amazing.
“I would really encourage people to consider adoption.
“You can love an adopted child as much as a biological one. Adoption does change who you are.”
For more information on the campaign, and to see the video, visit youcanadopt.co.uk/alifelessordinary