Children adopted by single men has doubled since 1998, but the idea persists that in the case of a solo parent, only women can nurture a child.
Back in Leave It to Beaver days, a single man being a foster parent — or adopting a child — was unheard of, but now, it’s an accelerating trend. In fact, a recent USA Today analysis found that the number of children adopted by single men has doubled since 1998.
Although single women are still the fastest growing segment of unmarried adoptive parents, the number of single men is rapidly growing. These singular men are breaking the stereotypes of the two-parent family structure and the idea that in the case of a solo parent, only women can nurture a child.
Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute said that a generation back, children available for adoption only went to married couples and then to single women. He said that’s changing now, with unmarried men adopting more and more children.
Bernard Close, 42, a pediatrician said he had assumed he would follow a more traditional path and get married, but when that didn’t pan out, he moved forward with plans to adopt. His son, Scott, age 9, came to him as a one-year-old. Close said he thought his profession would make parenting a breeze. “Boy, was I wrong about that!” he muses, “I had no idea.”
Some of the single fathers went through the foster system themselves and want to provide a stable, loving environment for kids who are in the foster system now. Donald McCloud, 49, a Colorado resident interviewed by The Denver Post, said he was a survivor of “plenty of emotional storms” and wanted to do what he could to prevent that from happening to more foster children. He fostered a nine-year-old boy, the boy’s brother and then their cousin, who all suffered from abusive home environments.
McCloud took them in and raised them until they were old enough to be out on their own. He said he did it because the boys needed him. McCloud thought he was finished being a foster parent, but when the Denver Dept. of Human Services called the night before his vacation to Cancun, he made a quick change of plans to provide a home for another foster child, Isaiah.
Child welfare agencies report that it’s not uncommon for single fathers to choose older children or those who have fallen through the cracks of society — the children who are harder to place in traditional homes.
Experts say that foster children, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse, often feel safer and benefit in a household with a single parent. Although some of these foster children come from homes where there was never a father present and need time to adjust to a male authority figure.
“Child welfare groups are starting to understand that single men can do just as good a job at caring for children as anyone,” said Barbara Holtan in USA Today. Holtan is the project director of AdoptUsKids, a federal program geared toward promoting the permanent adoption of foster kids. She said there are currently 115,000 children in the United States living in foster care who are available for adoption.
Despite some changes, single men who want to adopt still face extra hurdles. If they opt to foster, they have a much greater chance of being approved. That’s because studies show that foster children who are not raised in a home environment are more likely to end up in prison or to become homeless. Such research has encouraged agencies to bend the rules and make it easier for those children to get into stable home environments with single dads.
Conservative organizations that are against same-sex or gay singles adopting or even fostering, are more lenient towards allowing heterosexual men to be single fathers. They think the child might have a mother figure in the picture later on. But as far as female role models, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and women friends can provide the “mom” figure in the child’s life.
See www.AdoptUsKids.org for more information on fostering and adopting.