Challenging traditional family models – adopting solo
Women are increasingly shunning the expectation to find a partner before embarking on a family of their own. Adopting, fostering and even conceiving via IVF alone, is becoming more common.
By Helen Bowman
As the idea of ‘social norms’ for family make-up shift, more and more women are grasping the opportunity to build a family model to suit their individual circumstances. Blended families, single-sex parenting, single-parent households and multi-generational living – they’re all viable options for bringing up children.
But women are increasingly shunning the expectation to find a partner before embarking on a family of their own. Adopting, fostering and even conceiving children via IVF as a single person is an increasingly common choice.
We spoke to Together for Children in Sunderland about the growing opportunities for single women (and men).
Adoption manager Michelle Ash told us: “Becoming a parent can be daunting, it’s a life-changing decision but one that we can support you with if you choose to adopt. We have many single adoptive parents, both women and men, some younger and some older. Some people always knew they’d adopt, and others came to the decision after life led them down a different path, but they still wanted to feel the love and fulfilment of having a child.
“Figures from CoramBAAF (the successor organisation to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering) indicate that 430 children were adopted by single people in 2019 in the UK. This figure is increasing, and we hope to encourage anyone who may be considering adoption to get in touch. Please do not rule yourself out, speak to our team, ask us a question on Facebook or come along to one of our events. Being a parent is the most rewarding thing we can do and to offer a child in care the chance of a better life couldn’t be more fulfilling.”
Tracey Lowe approached Together For Children when she realised she wanted to become a solo adoptive Mum. She admits that she used to dream of the ‘perfect’ family setting. A partner, marriage, children, a house. But as life progressed, Tracey realised that marriage and her own children weren’t the only options open to her.
“I always knew I’d have my own children, but I also knew I’d care for children that couldn’t be cared for by their own parents because I have three foster siblings and my Grandma was adopted. I learnt that a family wasn’t ready-made and your family can come from anywhere and be anyone,” Tracey explained.
Tracey reached her 30s as a single woman with no children. She knew she didn’t need a partner or a husband and the ‘perfect’ home to adopt a child that needed her. And so, her adoption journey began. Following months of research and preparation, Tracey submitted her initial adoption enquiry with the full love and support of her family and friends.
The adoption process was frustrating and nerve-wracking, but Tracey became friends with another solo adopter, Louise. “I’m grateful that I met some wonderful people during the adoption process, some in the same situation as me and others with completely different circumstances. It was a relief to share that experience and those emotions with people who were feeling the same as you.”
The matching process of adoption was the most heart-breaking but uplifting experience for Tracey. She was invited to attend events to meet some of the children who needed a new family. “Some of my initial interests in children didn’t progress as other families were a better match, but I waited patiently, until one day in March my social working contacted me about a little boy, Leon, who was one and had minor additional needs. As soon as I read his profile, I knew I wanted to be this child’s Mum.
“There was another couple being considered and this was an anxious time because of his needs – I was convinced his social worker would pick the couple as there were two of them against just me.” When the call finally came it was the news Tracey had hoped for. Leon was being placed with her for adoption. “I just burst into tears. I couldn’t wait to love him and give him everything he needed.”
Tracey spent the following few months meeting specialists and the foster family Leon had lived with since he was four days old. “They brought him to life with their stories of him and as soon as I saw a photograph of him, I fell in love – he was meant to be MY son.”
After ten weeks of welcoming Leon into her home, the adoption order was granted in court. “I hugged my boy so tight and just remember telling him “I’m your Mam” over and over.
“Without the support and encouragement of my family and friends I would not have adopted my wonderful son. Meeting life-long friends such as Louise was the best thing to help me through the adoption process and I’m very thankful. I feel privileged to call Leon my son.
Photo of Tracey and Leon, provided by Together for Children.
“To be able to adopt a child, especially a child with behavioural issues or a learning difficulty, you need to be determined, to have empathy and be honest about what you can take on. But the most important thing is to have a loving heart and you’ll be amazing.”
Since her adoption of Leon, their life has changed a great deal. A year after the adoption, Tracey met Paul, a father of two. In July 2019, baby Joshua was born into the family to complete the blend of adoption, stepchildren and biological children beautifully.
“We have grown into a big family. The children love each other, and Leon adores his Daddy and his brothers and sister. All the children are loved and supported equally, and we do not apply labels to each other either, such as step-brother, half-sister or adopted. We are just a family. Seeing how much the children all adore each other makes every day special – if not a little chaotic!”