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"It was a shock": Richard Wilkins on the difficult decision to place his son into care.

He’s one of Australia’s most well-known entertainment reporters.

But what many viewers might not know is that behind the scenes, Richard Wilkins is a father to five children.

The Today Show entertainment reporter was just 18 years old when he first became a dad, welcoming his first child Adam into the world with his then 16-year-old girlfriend in New Zealand.

For Wilkins, becoming a father at a young age was incredibly challenging. Adam, who is now 45 years old, was born with Down syndrome.

Speaking on Today Extra on Thursday morning in honour of World Down Syndrome Day, Wilkins opened up about the difficult decision to place his son into care.

“I was only 18 when Adam was born [and] his mum was just 16, very unusual for Down syndrome people to be born to such young parents. It was a shock to be a parent let alone of a Down syndrome child,” Wilkins said.

“I’m prepared to admit that I wasn’t the greatest dad back in the day. I didn’t really know how to handle it,” he continued.

“I was getting on with my life and career, I wanted to travel the world and make music and do that sort of stuff, and it was with some reluctance that after about a year we put Adam in a home.

“People said you can have him adopted. But I said ‘No, he is always going to be my son’ and I want a relationship with him. He has had great people in his life over the years.”

Wilkins added that having Adam in his life “is an absolute joy”.

“[Adam] is my rock.”

richard wilkins
Richard Wilkins and his three sons. Image: Getty.
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Within a year of Adam's birth, Wilkins had married Adam's mother and begun working in an abattoir. It would be years before his face appeared on television.

Today, Adam lives in New Zealand near his mother, in a house with four others.

"He’s the happiest guy on the planet, that’s my solace in the whole thing," Wilkins told Stellar magazine in 2017.

“I deeply respect my other children for the way they have dealt with that, and I think most people who have a Down syndrome child in the family will tell you that child has really enhanced the lives of the whole family.”

Wilkens shares five children with four different mothers – Adam, 45, Rebecca, 35, Nick, 33, Christian, 23 and 14-year-old Estella.

The 63-year-old television presenter is reportedly currently dating Virginia Burmeister.

For more on this topic:

The side of Richard Wilkins you've never heard about.

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