DUP MP David Simpson and his wife Elaine adopted their children in the 1980s, when international adoption was very rare. He tells LAURA MCMULLAN of the happiness and joy his family has brought him
“On August 16, 1980, Elaine and I were married. I was 21 and Elaine was 19. We had the same plans and aspirations as many young couples, to set up our home and start a family. For the first few years of married life we were kept very busy starting up and building our own business, but having children was never far from our thoughts.
As time progressed it became clear that having our own children was not going to be as straightforward as we had imagined and so our thoughts turned to adoption.
As a committed Christian couple we believed that God had His own plan for us. I can honestly say right from the outset that international adoption was our first thought. We really felt that this was where God was leading us and what He wanted us to do.
However, back in the 1980s it was practically unheard off and a very difficult thing to do. We did not have a clue where to start but began by ringing our local Social Services office. They informed us that a little Indian boy had just been adopted by a local couple and it was the first such adoption in the whole of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust. The Barr family kindly agreed to meet with us to tell us of their experience and to allow us to meet little Markus. They explained the procedure and warned us that it would be very difficult, there would be many obstacles along the way, but if we were committed, it could be done. And so began our adoption experience.
It would take much too long to explain just how we eventually got to the point where we were told that a little girl had been born on December 23 1986 and was available for adoption from India, but suffice to say that whilst we were elated, we were slightly apprehensive of the daunting task ahead.
An American missionary couple Troy and Martha Morgan, who were in charge of a hospital in Kasganj, India helped us greatly and we will never be able to thank them enough. They identified a lawyer who agreed to act for us in India and we began our Home Study with social services here in Northern Ireland. The next eight months were a whirlwind of meetings with social workers and getting the paperwork right and eventually in September 1987, we travelled to India to bring our little baby home.
I cannot begin to describe how we felt when we first saw and held her. She was nine months by now and she was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. Jet black hair, the biggest brown eyes and so pretty. We named her Kristy, Sitara (Hindi for ‘star’ as she was a Christmas baby) Morgan (after the missionary couple) Simpson. We spent three weeks in India, the only contact with home being by letter or telegram. No mobile phones in those days. After the adoption successfully went through court, we booked a call home in the telegraph office and gave our families the good news. When we arrived back in Northern Ireland our house was full of people waiting to welcome her home.
Kristy settled into life in Northern Ireland very quickly. We have many lovely memories of her childhood. Remember, this was not the norm in 1980s. Elaine and I would laugh when we took Kristy out shopping etc. You could see people looking at this lovely baby, look at Elaine, look at me and then back to Kristy with this totally confused look on their faces. We just smiled.
After a couple of years we decided we would like to adopt again. India had been closed to foreign adoption so we did not know what our options were. One morning Elaine was watching breakfast TV when a feature came on about international adoption. There was an organisation in England helping couples adopt from South America, Elaine contacted the TV station and got their telephone number. Again after much discussion and checking, we asked the authorities if it would be possible to adopt two babies at one time and you can imagine our delight when we were informed that twins, a boy and a girl, had just been placed for adoption. An answer to prayer. And so began again another home study and more rounds of meetings and paperwork. In December 1989 we travelled to Paraguay and met for the first time our beautiful twins, Steven David and Leah Viola Simpson.
When the legalities were completed in Paraguay we started to plan our journey home. This was not as straightforward as coming from India. On the first flight home Elaine took ill. I was left holding two babies, literally. But with the help of a number of very willing stewardesses, we began our journey from Asuncion to Sao Paolo to Rio De Janeiro to Madrid to London, and eventually some 23 hours later, to Belfast where a large group of family and friends were patiently waiting to welcome us.
Our family was now complete. As our children grew up we never experienced any troubles regarding their colour or race. They settled very easily into school life, made loads of friends and were very happy children. Our home was just a normal home. Holidays, homework, laughter, naughtiness.
They brought a great deal of joy and happiness to our home. We were always very honest with them regarding their background and have told them everything we know about their birth families. We encouraged them to be proud of their race and culture but to be honest, the fact that they were adopted never really featured in our every day lives.
Soon after we adopted Steven and Leah, international adoption became more popular and unfortunately hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, although we were able to advise and help a number of couples to successfully adopt from abroad. Legislation tightened up and rightfully so. It has become a much more difficult thing to do.
I have to say that we have never regretted for a single moment adopting the children and would strongly recommend adoption to other couples. People sometimes say to me, ‘it was a really good thing you did’, but actually the exact opposite of that is true. The children have brought so much more to us than we could ever give to them. My advice to other prospective adoptive parents would be to be honest with the children from the beginning. Bring them up in a loving, normal home environment.
Kristy is now 27 and has her own shoe and clothes boutique in Portadown called Sitara Morgan. Leah works in Banbridge as a case worker for Sydney Anderson MLA, is 25 and earlier this year got married to David. Steven is also 25 and works in the family business. He is getting married next year to Rebecca.
They are all very happy and well settled. They are our children and we love each one of them dearly. We are very proud of our international family.”