Though many are hailing him a ‘saint’ and ‘inspiration’, the only title that Ben Carpenter cares about is being called ‘dad’.
The 33-year-old single gay dad adopted his eldest son Jack, who has autism and OCD, in 2010. Since then he has adopted three other children with disabilities, giving them the round-the-clock care they need.
While other children dreamed of being firemen or lawyers, Ben just dreamed of being a parent, and after spending three years convincing the authorities he had the maturity and skills to be a good dad, he became one of the youngest gay men in the country to adopt a child.
Speaking to UNILAD, Ben said:
I have always from a young age had the desire to parent. Growing up within a religious family I always had a caring disposition instilled in me, adoption was always at the for front of my mind as having biological children was never a priority for me.
Often children with an additional need can be over looked, in in a lot of cases be classed as “hard to place” however I totally except that not every one can care for a child/children with an additional need and quite rightly you have to be true to yourself when on the adoption journey about the type of children you feel best suits you and your family set up! As it is paramount that you can meet the children needs.
Jack is the eldest at 10 years old, he has autism and OCD related with autism meaning his life is very routine focused and as a family, they adapt the way they plan and undertake daily life to suit Jack's needs.
Six-year-old Ruby has quite complex needs including being severely impaired, she has mobility issues, and physical disabilities, among other difficulties.
Lilly is five years old and is Ruby's biological half sister. Ben described her as 'proudly deaf' as well as severely impaired. The whole family have learned British Sign Language (BSL) in order to communicate effectively with her.
The newest member of their wonderful family is 2-year-old Joseph who has Down's syndrome and many complex needs associated with it. He requires a colostomy bag so requires 24-hour care to change it regularly.
Speaking to UNILAD, Ben said:
Adoption comes with is struggles and it's stresses and in my opinion no more that if you had your own biological children 'children are children' however this does not go without saying adoption requires patience, and a bucket load of support.
Often children within the care system have experienced a lot of difficult experiences including loss, separate abuse and neglect.
However for me all my children bring me the absolute joy! I wake up in the morning and think what would my life be like without children? I know it would be empty that's for sure!
As a single gay man, adoption can have many hurdles that straight couples don't encounter.
There is often an uneducated and prejudice view that in some way having gay parents will 'turn the kids gay', or in some way not give the children what they need.
Speaking about some discrimination he has received, Ben said:
I often get passing comments like 'it's not right' and 'because you are gay then all of children will be gay then won't they' other comment I get are he must be doing it for money?
To me they are just comments I can handle it. I do find myself correcting silly naive comments. In all honesty 70% of the time they do see sense once it's explained to them.
I am so proud that the world and its views are changing and its a joy to the the LGBT community coming forward to adopt.
It is great to see the UK system moving past this out-of-date view, looking to the fact that a homosexual person or couple can be just as good as, if not better parents than straight couples.
Ben is open to the idea of adopting a fifth child, saying he's a great believer in fate and said 'who knows what the future holds?'.
It is currently National Adoption Week, which runs until October 22.
Adoption UK hold this week with the aim of raising awareness of the number of children waiting to be adopted. As of March 2016, 70,440 children were in the care of local authorities, the majority of which are above the age of 10.
71% of the children waiting to be placed were considered 'harder to place' which means the child is over five, BME, disabled, or part of a sibling group.
Ben has a history of working in care and understood the difficulties that the 'hard to place' children struggle with, so opened his heart and family up to them.
A truly inspiring guy.