Brandon Hall is the creative director of Sutherland Models where he’s been working for over 15 years. His gig means he preps up-and-coming stars with the kind of professional finesse to make it onto the international runways of major fashion houses and into full-scale advertising campaigns. His running list of leading ladies on his roster include Guess! girl Danielle Knudson, Lisa Cant and Sports Illustrated star Kate Bock. He’s also worked with billboard names like Monika Schnarre, Malin Ackerman and Linda Evangelista. His dreamy job is impressive, for sure, but what’s just as awesome is his journey towards fatherhood.
The first time I saw gay and lesbian couples with families was over 10 years ago when I was volunteering at a Children’s Aid Society Reunion picnic. I kind of felt like I was on the moon. I actually thought ‘wow, as a gay man I can have kids.’ I always wanted children but I wasn’t sure it was possible. There were few options for me to start a family and very few of my friends had kids, so I was awestruck to see so many gay and lesbian parents making it work.
On the drive home, my partner and I had a heart-to-heart and decided that adoption was what we wanted to do. We didn’t wait long to call the Children’s Aid Society. They invited us to an orientation where we joined at least twenty other people, straight and gay. We met some amazing people through the 10-week PRIDE Program (that’s short for Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education), some of which we’re lucky enough to consider a part of our family today. It’s been wonderful to have a community who experienced the same stages as us every step of the way.
“We met Connor when he was eighteen months old…within an hour we were cuddling, playing and laughing with our son.”
After the orientation is finished, there’s still a long road ahead. There are a series of home visits, police checks, interviews, medical checks…there’s so much that it can take up to two years until you finally adopt your first child. Honestly, this waiting game was very stressful for me; it felt like an eternity. It was hard to watch other people start their families while we were in a standstill. The friends we made at the PRIDE program were our main source of support and made it easier to cope.
Finally, our day came. We met Connor when he was eighteen months old. It took a little over a year, but the wait was worth it. Our first visit with him was set up at his foster home. He was this chubby little kid who crawled by us from the living room to the hallway. He didn’t even notice us. And then within an hour we were cuddling, playing and laughing with our son. Looking back, it was such a surreal experience because we had planned to meet our first child for so long, and then suddenly it was happening. Eventually we started overnight stays at our house and over time he moved in and his foster mom would come visit us to help him—and us—with the transition.
What’s surprising to a lot of people is that I have three children. Connor’s birth mother eventually had two more children, Madison and then Aiden, who we adopted as well. In most cases, it’s common for the Children’s Aid Society to ask the adoptive family if they wish to adopt the siblings. Apparently we had an issue with saying no (LOL) and I’m so glad we kept saying yes. Having children changed me forever. These little beings add so much life to mine. Form the whining to the giggles and the tears and frustration, every minute of being a parent is the best feeling in the world.
Considering adoption? Here’s Brandon’s advice:
Have patience. The process of adoption is long for so many reasons. The waiting game can be draining so go on with your daily lives and remember to enjoy your time as a couple as you go through it.
Educate yourself. It’s quite possible that a child could come from a birth mother who was addicted to crack cocaine, smoked cigarettes or suffered from alcohol abuse. With these realities, there’s a chance a child could have global delays, ADHD or even fetal alcohol syndrome. Once I educated myself on what I could possibly face, I realized all the ‘risks’ aren’t that horrible. Through the knowledge I gained by reading book after book, I became less and less fearful of the new challenges waiting for me.
Be ready to embrace the unknown. Many children come from a history of sexual or drug abuse. That means there are a lot of different situations and potentially challenging issues to overcome such as lack of education or speech delays. You have to be ready to face any possible outcome and deal with it, which means educating yourself and giving the love and attention every child deserves. The Children’s Aid Society has plenty of resources for new families to help them get adjusted.
Find your support system. Think about who your community is and who you trust to support you through the process. Once I had children, I quickly realized how important it is to have friends who I can rely on. As they say, it really takes a village to raise a child.
Be open and honest. During the interview process you will be expected to answer some thought provoking, challenging and personal questions. Don’t be afraid to answer from the heart and remember, although we all strive for perfection, none of us are (and that’s okay).
HOME TOUR Shades of grey and pops of colour dominate this bustling, kid-centric home
The living room seamlessly mashes up bright patterns against a warm grey backdrop and neutral furnishings.
Connor’s room echoes dad’s preference for shades of grey and pops of colour.
A self-professed busy body, Brandon refinished and painted Madison’s bed by himself.
Baby pics of Brandon sit next to a craft featuring Connor in the boys’ bedroom.
Family keepsakes in the kitchen: A decorative ceramic jug that belonged to his mother and he regularly uses the same coffee maker that his mother and grandmother both did.
Brandon is a DIY addict and did most of the renovations in his home. “My projects have slowed down considerably since having kids but there is always something on-the-go. Anything from building an outdoor harvest-style table and benches to cedar planter boxes for the third floor deck. My friends and family always say I have an addiction to renovation but it’s something I love to do.”
Fourteen-year-old Paco welcomed every new addition Brandon brought home to the family.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
This ring is a family heirloom that belonged to his mother. He’s saving it for Madison. “My mother spent a lot of her time volunteering. She’s the one who inspired me to do the same.”
Like every parent, Brandon busts stress whenever he can, like in the shower where all his must-haves contain relaxing essential oils. He also relies on mediation and tries to fit in a short sesh a few times a day. “I have the Relax Lite app on my phone. I use it in the car just before I pick up the kids so I can enjoy the evening with them in the right frame of mind.”
A father of three, Brandon is used to buying in bulk, especially when there’s a sale. Here’s a recent haul from Aldo. “This is what happens when I see a shoe sale. I buy buy buy!”
Brandon is a walking library full of parenting advice thanks to his intuition and his commitment to learning all he can. Above are some of his must-reads. “Right now I’m using 1-2-3 Magic. it’s been wonderful for us.”