Rav and Phil with their adopted children Junior, nine, Tyrese, six, and Rhianna
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Today, millions of dads are being celebrated for their irreplaceable role in their children’s lives.
That’s no different for social worker Rav and Phil, a teacher, who’ll have kick-started Father’s Day with breakfast in bed made by their children – Junior, nine, Tyrese, six, and Rhianna, three – before taking a trip to the beach.
But it’s extra special for the two dads, following a long journey to make their family complete.
It all began on the couple’s very first date at a Thai restaurant in London eight years ago. “We discussed how much we wanted children. It was a deal breaker for us both – alongside being fans of Disney!” explains Phil.
“When we kissed at the end of the night, two things were certain – we were falling in love and we were going to have a family together.”
As two gay men the route to parenthood wasn’t simple. “We wanted it so bad that we’d get upset when we saw parents who didn’t appreciate their children. We knew we could love children the same way a mum and dad could,” says Phil.
Rav and Phil with their adopted children Junior, nine, Tyrese, six, and Rhianna, three – they are all full siblings
“We briefly looked into surrogacy but thought, why pay so much money when there are already so many kids who need love?”
In January 2016, four years and many adoption information sessions later, Rav and Phil officially started the process. “There was a lot of paperwork and 10 weeks of discussing everything, including our lives, in extreme detail with a social worker,” Rav explains.
“No page was left unturned – they even got in touch with our exes!” adds Phil.
On the day they were finally accepted, they saw their boys’ profiles. “There was something really special about these two – they both looked like mini versions of us,” recalls Phil. “They were, quite simply, our children,” smiles Rav. “It felt meant to be.”
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The social workers were initially hesitant about placing the brothers with two men. “They’d had aggressive male figures in
their lives, which gave them trust issues. We were told to not even expect eye contact on our first meeting,” remembers Phil.
“But they instantly responded, telling us about school and inviting us to join them in the play area.”
“Then it was all systems go,” he says. “We sent videos of their rooms, photo albums of us and gave them cuddly toys that we’d slept with so they could get used to our scent, which sounds odd but they were only two and five at the time.
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"We knew that Junior was a fellow Disney fan and fond of Frozen so we got his foster carers to send us a video of him singing Let It Go, and superimposed him onto the background of the film. He was chuffed!”
Rav adds, “We planned multiple days out and sleepovers so they could get used to the idea of us. It was exhausting, but we wanted to be the best possible version of ourselves.
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“By the end of the year we became their forever family. When Junior was told, he immediately started packing his toys into a suitcase. The social worker had to explain he still had another couple of weeks with his foster parents, who the boys have a lovely relationship with. We do, too.”
At first, they enjoyed a “honeymoon phase”. Rav explains, “They called me Daddy and Phil was Dad straight away. Like every anxious new parent, we kept going into their rooms to check they were still breathing!
Junior, nine, Tyrese, six, and Rhianna, three are very happy living with their two loving fathers
“Then reality struck, with Junior especially. Any time we left the house he’d start having tantrums as he had anxiety about us leaving forever.
“One day we were trying to get ready for a walk when the social worker knocked on the door for a planned visit. Junior ran into a cupboard and Tyrese started screaming.
“They associated social worker visits with being taken away. We hugged them and reassured them we’d never let them be taken away ever again. We tell them we love them all the time.”
Six months later, Rav and Phil were told the boys’ birth parents had had a little girl and were asked if they were interested in adopting her. “Although three children was our end goal, we didn’t feel ready at all. We didn’t want to risk ruining the balance we’d created at home. But the social worker told us we could handle it,” recalls Rav.
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“Rhianna was seven months old when we got her. All three children are full siblings and were exposed to some very scary situations.”
The baby experience was completely new for the couple. “It was overwhelming at times,” says Rav. “We’d look at each other like, ‘What have we done?’ I remember going to a local restaurant – there was screaming, noodle throwing and mayhem. We still can’t show our faces there! We’ve had to learn to forgive ourselves as nobody is perfect at parenting.
“We didn’t expect it to affect our relationship, but we realised we have certain expectations of each other as fathers. We also both felt jealousy when the children favoured one of us, which could cause arguments. We understand now why so many parents split up!”
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“They’re amazing kids, though, and we wouldn’t want them any other way,” says Phil. “Junior is the most caring, thoughtful, gentle young man. Tyrese is the cheekiest chap and so brave, while Rhianna is independent and sassy. She’s so protective of us all.”
Phil adds that his experience of having a father who was adopted made the decision even more important.
“We’re so glad that we adopted them as siblings, as they have a real bond,” he says. “He was separated from his siblings, and so when he met them as an older man they were like strangers. I didn’t want that for my children. They all have relationships
with their older three sisters, too, and we arrange meet-ups. They even come to stay.
“There have been tough times, and we’ve been so tired we’ve felt like crying. But we’re so proud of how far we’ve all come, and we’re really living our dream.”
Rav and Phil are supporting the nationwide #YouCanAdopt campaign, which aims to encourage those considering adoption to think about adopting brothers and sisters together. To find out more, visit youcanadopt.co.uk