One of the most Googled questions about adoption is whether single people can adopt. In fact, research conducted by national group You Can Adopt found that 29% of people didn’t know if single people are eligible to adopt.
Now we think about it, we’re not sure we knew that. Not before we spoke with Paula Gibbons at Adopt Coast To Coast, anyway.
See, Adopt Coast to Coast are on a mission to dispel any and every adoption myth – because there are now more children than ever needing forever homes. But there are also fewer adopters coming forward. And this could be because, for years, adoption was only possible if you had the traditional ‘family’ set up: one husband, one wife; both homeowners rather than renters and plenty of savings in the bank.
But not anymore. In fact, adopting when you’re single is not only possible – it’s becoming more and more common. Single adopters account for 12% of all adoptees in England right now, and that figure is rising.
But what’s the reality of being a single adoptive parent? Well, we decided to find out. That’s why we’ve worked together with Adopt Coast To Coast to bring you Ali’s story.
Freshly home from a sunny week in Spain with her mum and her now 6-year-old son Ollie, we sat down with single mum and business owner Ali to find out all about her experiences of adoption and what life is like for the pair now.*
*Ali and Ollie’s names have been changed for safeguarding.
Why did you decide to adopt as a single woman?
I’d been thinking about adoption for a while and, at 45, I had my own business which was well established, and I was working with some brilliant clients who I had known for years. I knew that I needed to have time and financial stability to be able to adopt by myself and running my own business gave me the flexibility I needed to become a parent.
Although I knew you could adopt as a single parent, I still had questions about whether I would be suitable to adopt at my age and I was curious about how being self-employed would affect my application. So, initially, I made a phone call to Adopt Coast To Coast ask these questions and, once I felt reassured, I attended an information event to find out about the whole process. While I was excited about starting the process, I didn’t tell anyone that I was applying until I started my Stage 1 training.
What were your biggest considerations as a single parent adopter?
For me, my biggest concern was how to manage financially as the sole earner, especially because I knew there would be a period of time where I wouldn’t be earning. Because of the nature of my business, I was able to work extra hours during the application process, so I had some money in the bank to support us. Once we were settled as a new family, I was also able to run my business around naptimes and bedtimes. Having worked in further education, I was used to long hours, so it worked well for me to run my business when I could, and I worked flexibly like this for around a year.
Another thing to consider as a single parent is your support network – I moved to the North East for university, so I didn’t have family nearby, but I have amazing support from my friends, which has helped make the adoption possible. My mum and two of my friends did Family and Friends Adoption Training as part of the process, and my mum stayed with us for some of the transition week and for the first week after Ollie moved in, which was a great help.
What extra things do you have to consider as an adoptive parent that a biological parent wouldn’t have to?
No matter how you become a parent, learning to be one is the biggest shock for anyone. But with an adopted child, you must think about extra things to make the transition as easy as possible for them. There are lots of little things to consider, such as using the same washing powder or buying the same bread as the foster carers, so the child has familiarity. It takes extra planning, but it’s worth it and I got on so well with Ollie’s foster carers that they are now his godparents.
I also met two other single adopters during my training and, five years later, we still meet up with our children. It’s great to have people who really understand what you’re going through. I now mentor other adopters because I know how important it is to have people to talk to about the experience.
What was the reaction from your friends and family when you said you were going to adopt?
Everyone was so supportive when I told them – friends, family and colleagues all welcomed Ollie with open arms and he’s sat in many a client meetin stealing the show!
What was it like working with a social worker?
I remember my social worker saying that by the time we had finished completing the Prospective Adopters Report, she would know more about me than anyone else – and it was certainly true! During the process, you explore everything from your childhood to finances, your parenting style, hopes, dreams and fears.
It sounds intense, but I didn’t find it intrusive at all because it’s all done for a reason – the team are entrusting you with a child, so it’s important that it’s done right. I felt very supported throughout and my social worker helped with my thinking around things like contact with birth parents and meeting siblings, which was vital to both me and my son.
What links do you have with Ollie’s birth family?
One of the most memorable parts of the adoption experience for me was meeting Ollie’s birth mum. I was very nervous about it and it’s something a lot of adopters really worry about, but it’s also one of the most important things that I’ve ever done. Hearing first-hand from Ollie’s birth mum that she was, in a way, glad he was being adopted because she couldn’t keep him safe, is a memory that will always stay with me and remains an important part of his story.
We also keep in touch with Ollie’s two older sisters, who were adopted by a couple in the North East. It isn’t always a breeze and the meetings can lead to some challenging behaviour in all of the children. But for me and the girls’ parents, maintaining the sibling relationship is so important for their sense of identity and we love getting together as one big family.
Can you tell us about the first time you met Ollie?
The first time I saw Ollie was when my social worker brought over a photo of him, and I just cried and cried. The first time I met him was at the foster carer’s house not long after we were matched together, where I played on the floor with him. It was a really special moment – words don’t seem to do it justice, but it was overwhelming and amazing. I fell in love with him instantly.
What advice would you offer anyone considering single parent adoption?
I would encourage anyone considering adoption to be honest about what you want, what you think you can cope with, and to be realistic about what is going to make you happy. Very few adopted children aren’t affected in some way by pre-birth or early month trauma, but there is a lot of support available. Being honest about your needs will let you be the best parent to that child, who has already been through a lot.
I would also encourage people to investigate school early too – find out what the culture is like, what the discipline policies are, how they support adopted children and talk to the Head, to make sure the school meets all of your child’s needs.
Go into adoption with an open mind. It can be difficult to think about birth families and many adopters have mixed emotions about them, but it’s important to recognise and honour them as part of your child’s story.
ABOUT ADOPT COAST TO COAST
Adopt Coast to Coast are one of the new superheroes of the adoption world – uniting the three local adoption agencies of Sunderland, Durham and Cumbria under one umbrella in order to share resources, speed up the process and give more children and prospective parents the opportunity to find their perfect family.