In our first blog for National Adoption Week, single, prospective adopter, Tom, talks about why he chose the adoption route, how his journey has been so far, and what his hopes are for the future.

I remember seeing an advert on the side of a bus for fostering and adoption on the way home from another first date, I’m not sure why but I googled it and discovered that single men could adopt. Even as I write that sentence, I can’t really explain what a seismic shift that was for me. The realisation as a single, straight man, that I didn’t actually have to find the perfect women in order to have a family. Several years later, a friend, on hearing that I had a panel date recalled a conversation we had had, where she admitted being left thinking about how unfair it is that men can’t just have a child without a woman. Perhaps that’s all an overly simplistic view but the sentiment is true. For years I felt the pressure of needing to find that other person who would unlock my ability to become a father. Suddenly that pressure was gone—there was another way!  

It took another year or so before I took the plunge and registered my interest in adopting, I think I needed space to check that it wasn’t just the excitement at the prospect of becoming a dad and that I really understood what I was getting myself in to. In my first meetings with my social worker we talked a lot about the fact that I am young (being 38 I was very flattered to be called young), healthy and have a good job so therefore in modern parlance am a ‘catch’. So why, my social worker kept asking, don’t you just have a biological baby? She wasn’t the only person asking this question. Several good friends, delighted at the news would enquire, but why not just find someone to have a baby with. I’ll admit there was a week were I genuinely wondered should I just change my search parameters and settle for someone who just wants a child- perhaps being a separated parent wouldn’t be too bad. Ultimately, I realised that I didn’t want to be a part time parent who had to negotiate access, I didn’t want to have to add in managing an extra adult relationship or differing values to the mix of parenthood. I wanted to do things my way.

There was a blissful time post putting my application in but before my social worker meetings really started where I was giddy at the prospect of being a parent and oblivious to some of the realities. I remember sitting at Heathrow airport waiting to board a flight to see my parents for Christmas getting emotional at the thought that this could be the last time I make this flight alone. I fantasised about all of the brilliant adventures we would have- picture an influencer parent with perfect cases, perfect holidays, perfect plates of food and chiselled abs. Of course, this was all a bit of a pipe dream (especially the abs), the more I read about trauma and attachment the more I realised how hard this journey would be. I remember putting down a particularly brutal book about Trauma called ‘The Primal Wound’ and thinking ‘Can I really do this?’ As I read more, I stumbled across other authors talking about the whole brain child or therapeutic parenting and I found my stride. This was the kind of parent I had always wanted to be and suddenly it all seemed manageable again.  

Doing this alone was always going to be a little more tricky as there is no one else- you have to really think about who you will rely on, who will be the person you call when you are about to crack or when you need an extra pair of hands? There are also the finances, one income (which during your adoption leave can be dicey) can mean that your standard of living will have to change fairly drastically. That’s been something I have really had to think about as I’ve always been comfortably off and had assumed when I had children that I would still be in a position to splurge on baby chinos and hipster toddler music groups. You really have to embrace that idea that it doesn’t matter if you can’t keep up with your friends, if you have to say ‘can we go somewhere cheaper?’ or if you have to just ask for help.

What I really hadn’t been prepared for though was the surprise that other people would have at me being a single, straight, male adopter. It seems that people get hung up on the fact that I have other options. Not to make too big a thing of it but there don’t seem to be thousands of solo male adopters anyway (I’ve seen a figure that suggests that only 10% of adoptions are by solo applicants- I don’t know if it’s accurate) and it would seem a large chunk are women. The solo male adopter community on Instagram has been massively supportive and helpful – I’ve spent hours on the phone chatting with others about their experiences which has been so helpful.

I’m now at the end of what is known as stage two, this means that I have had my four days preparedness training (you could say it is a bit like the adoption equivalent of NCT classes but mandatory), I’ve had eight half day sessions with my social worker and I’ve written a mammoth document called my chronology- a document that outlines all of the key moments in my life. All of this information will be used by my social worker to write my Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) which will be presented to panel at the end of November.

This process, as you can imagine has been fairly intense. You have to unpick and relive aspects of your life so that you can understand how they will impact your ability to parents. The process is both intrusive and blunt. At times you can’t help but feel a sense of injustice that someone can go out and have a one-night stand and fall pregnant but here you are completing months of assessments and training. Some of the sessions are more probing than others, for me the ones where we unpicked my past relationships were the hardest. After one such session, where we had spent half a day looking at why my past relationships had ended and seeing if there was any commonality, I remember feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. As a solo applicant there is no one to debrief with, no one to hug after a tough session and no one to help re-pack the emotional baggage that you have spent half a day unpicking. It is important though, as you do gain a far greater understanding of your own self. Cheesy as that may sound.

I’ve been lucky to have some great friends around me who have not only been supportive but have been interested. The process is full on and sometimes you just need to talk about it- boring as that might be. Having people around you who will talk with you about it makes all the difference.  

I’m in a strange limbo now, my social workers have confirmed what they will recommend me for to panel (one or more boys aged 1-4), panel will make their decision which will then be ratified by the local authority. After that matching begins. My panel date is almost exactly a year after I first registered my interest. The last part of my journey is far harder to track, how long will it take to find a match- who knows? How long will it take on being matched to be placed- who knows? When will I hear tiny feet in my home- it’s anyone’s guess but I like to think that it will happen before Autumn. This makes it really hard to tell people (which is why I’m writing this under the guise of an Instagram handle @solo.father and not my name. I’ve told my close friends but it feels strange to tell the wider world that at some point hopefully in the next 6-7 months I will have a child or children. It’s not like announcing a pregnancy, there is no solid information to give people. In the same way that a pregnant couple start changing their lifestyle, mine is starting to change and at some point, people will notice and I will need to explain so I can’ really just wait until I have a placement date to tell people. At this point I plan to tell everyone after my panel date, as that feels seems to be the equivalent to the 12-week scan.

I think that choosing to start a family in this way takes courage and determination but it also requires a lot of self-discovery. You will have to dig into your past and your behaviours- which isn’t always for the feint-hearted. Despite the amount of work needed, I already know it will be worth it. I can’t wait to start bonding with my new family. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. I know that might all be different once the novelty has worn off and the reality of broken sleep, vomit and toileting accidents kicks in but really can it be much worse than watching Saturday morning TV in an empty house!