A Single Man’s Adoption Story

How one man’s experience led him to help others fulfill their dream of becoming a parent.

 

There are only two things I ever wanted to be in this life: a husband and a father. Being a gay man, I decided becoming a father would be the easier thing to do. But as I dove into the process of adopting, I began feeling as though I had a better chance of becoming pregnant myself.

Sure, as a lawyer, I had some clue adoption would be difficult. But as a single man, there were more internal and external forces to contend with than I was totally prepared for. First I had to deal with my own hang-ups.

I was pretty convinced I could raise a boy to be a good man. If I was a boy and I turned out all right, surely I could raise a son—but I was less sure I could raise a girl to be a good woman. If I did adopt a boy, would people think I, a single man raising a boy, was a pedophile?

All these issues took months for me to realize the truth: they weren’t really issues.

But the politics of adoption made life even harder. There are currently initiatives underway in a few states that would prohibit single-parent adoptions, based on the assumption that single parents—especially men—can’t raise a child to be a psychologically healthy adult. A number of studies have dispelled this notion.

Couples have it the easiest, of course, because, by traditional standards, a family is made up of a mother and father. And single women have had the ability to adopt, quite easily, for many years (see: Jolie, Angelina; Bullock, Sandra; and Madonna, just to name a few). While my experiences are related to domestic adoption from the foster-care system, many foreign countries expressly prohibit single men from adopting but welcome single women. Why? The answer is simple: women are perceived as better caregivers.

What the foster-care, adoption, and legal systems fail to pick up on is this: The only men who are going to adopt are men who have a true passion for being a father—men who would give anything to care for a child of their own. A 1986 study published in the National Council of Family Relations found that, in cases like this, “‘mothering’ is not an exclusively female skill.”

I was determined to not let the government prevent my dream from becoming reality.

♦◊♦

In August of 2004, when I was 38 years old, I finished the state-mandated parenting class—an hour-and-a-half-long course that took place a few times a week and lasted just over two months—in which the instructor covered everything from how to deal with children from different cultures and backgrounds, to how to discipline, to such finer details as a child’s hair care. I also underwent home visits from adoption officials, during which time my house was checked to make sure a child would be safe inside it. I was asked invasive questions about things like past relationships, my childhood, what my parents were like, drug and alcohol use, and my fears. I then entered the waiting period.

During this time, adoption officials search to find a child who is the best fit for you. It was one of the more difficult times in my life. I learned to stay away from people who were negative and only had horror stories about adoption. I used this period of time to read, prepare the house, and do things I was pretty sure I would not have the chance to do once I became a father. But what I could have used most of all was another single adoptive dad to talk to.

I sat around the corner from the bathroom and cried as I listened to his imagination and person come alive.

I decided to take some time for myself, too. I had never been to Paris, a city I had always wanted to visit, so I decided I would go. I never made it. On the day before Thanksgiving 2004, I was standing in line with a fistful of Euros, getting ready to leave for France when my cell phone rang. “Brian, we found him,” said Kristen, my adoption worker. I went numb and asked to call her back from my office. I was two blocks away—it was the longest walk of my life.

I met my son five days later. During the initial visit, at his foster home in Massachusetts, I witnessed a child who was bright, smiled, yelled, stomped his feet, and screamed. It was not that he couldn’t talk; he wouldn’t talk. He had his own language; created in his mind to get his needs satisfied as a result of their never being met. I was told that he could only say seven words. I went to a corner on this initial visit and sat there with a book and a stuffed bear, and waited. Ever so slowly, he approached me, touched me, then ran away and giggled. Eventually, he sat in my lap and looked at me for a while. Then, with his social worker, the foster mother, and my adoption worker looking on, he put his hand on my face and said, “Daddy.”

♦◊♦

The adoption was finalized in July 2005. I took paternity leave and taught Ben to speak and potty-trained him (I would gladly take any bar exam to never have to potty-train again). He would sit on the toilet and sing and practice his words when he thought I was out of earshot. I sat around the corner from the bathroom and cried as I listened to his imagination and person come alive.

When you have a child who came from such an incredibly tough start to life, and you watch him unfold, you witness what love, discipline, and structure can do for a child.

When we were deep in the threes, he talked constantly, questioned everything, woke each morning with “Love you, Daddy” and left me each night with what we call a “forever” hug (as he knows I will be his father forever). Each night he would pick a book for us to read together.

One night, he asked for a book with a mommy in it. Once we started reading, he asked me if he would have a mommy. With a lump in my throat and holding back tears, I told him that there are families out there who have mommies, daddies, and all various combinations, but a family is about all the people who love you. My son started to recite all of the people who touch both his life and mine. I held my son against my chest and he gave me a forever hug. “Love you, Daddy,” he said again, and I couldn’t help but cry.

♦◊♦

On a hot June day, about a year after Ben came home with me, the two of us headed to the beach for an early day before lunch and his nap. As he and I were jumping waves and playing in the water, I noticed a man moving closer and closer to us. The parent in me was cautious. As the ball we were playing with floated and bobbed with the current, it moved toward the man, who reached out to retrieve it. Ben toddled up to him and reached for the ball. Gently, the man handed it back to Ben, who then came running back to me, calling, “Daddy, Daddy, again, again.” This went on for a bit with the stranger, who appeared to be more curious than anything else. Finally, he and I were close enough to speak over the surf and I noticed tears in his eyes.

“Is that your son?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. Through a gruff voice, he said, “I gave up that dream.” Regaining his emotional footing, he turned and went back to his blanket, grabbed a beer and began laughing and joking with his friends. It was that conversation which launched a thousand questions.

Why would a man give up that dream? Even in my darkest hours, I still always knew I’d do everything I could to adopt my son. But when I started to think of all the men I encountered, both in my legal practice and in my adoption classes, I could see how overwhelmingly hard it may be for some guys to adopt and become a single father.

There are very few positive images of single dads—most of the ones we hear about are divorced and only see their kids on the weekends. Moreover, you rarely hear guys talk about the emotional side of being a father—as though it’s not masculine to do so. Then there’s the feeling some guys have of waiting too long and being too old to start a family. But these are all total misconceptions—and I’m proof of that.

In 2009 I decided I’d start helping to break down these barriers and help find homes, with single men, for the 500,000 foster children here in the U.S. To that end I started We Hear the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to advocacy and support for children’s causes related to adoption, diversity, and education. I also launched a toll-free number (855-411-4323) and website (4114DAD.com)—staffed by other single adoptive fathers—for single men who want to adopt but don’t know where to start.

♦◊♦

When I began walking the path to parenthood, there weren’t many single men who were adopting. In the years since, I’ve encountered more men like the one on the beach, but now I’m not afraid to ask the question “Why?” And I’m happy to share my story and help other men achieve the dream of becoming a father. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better feeling. I should know—I did it twice. In 2007, I adopted my second son, Bryce.

Images by Erika Powell-Burson

 

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About Brian Tessier

Brian J.Tessier Esq. is the Founder/CEO of We Hear The Children Inc. (Wehearthechildren.org). Tessier is the father, of two adopted sons and the author of “The Love Creates Family” series of books. He's a long-time advocate of single parent and LGBT adoptions, and sits as a member of the Human Rights Campaign's All Children-All Families Foundation.

Comments

  1. This is a really wonderful story–I am so happy for you and your sons, and not only to you sound like an amazing parent, you sound like an amazing advocate for single dads.

    You should send out this story to feministe.com, feministing.com, and jezebel.com to get the word out about your services. I have run into some men on those sites that would be interested.

    Thanks again. I will be sure to refer people to you.

    • Brian Tessier says:

      Thanks so much! I think as a father you lear to advocate! Getting the word out that the path to parenthood is possible. While I may be excellent at dealing with the stomach bug and monsters in the night ut as far as other posts I am a dummy! Thanks and let others know we are here to support their dreams!

  2. Celia Brown says:

    Brian- you are a role model for all parents, thank you for sharing your beautiful story!

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey, Brian!

    My partner and I have talked many times about adoption, but have allowed ourselves to succumb to the “what-ifs” like being too old, not being fully prepared, not having enough money, not making it through the process. Your story gives me a sense of excitement that it’s well worth the effort to see it through.

    Thanks again for the story and the information.

  4. Brian Tessier says:

    Michael, My pleasure! “If” is the biggest word in the english language and we can be dissuaded by those records that play in our head that tell us we can not do something. These things cause us to forgo dreams and wonderful possibilities, a few things, for any parent:
    1. You are never too old
    2. You will never be fully prepared, it is trial by fire.
    3. You will live by your needs and not your wants and kids don’t care about money and there is financial assistance in the process, depending on your state.
    4. You can and will make it through the process and we are hear to help.

    It is all worth it!

  5. Michael says:

    Brian, your story is winderful, gives me hope, but also scares me to an extent. I am partially adopted and it is something I have always wanted to do. As the years have passed and life changes, I decieded about 8 months ago that I was going to start the adoption process on my 37th birthday. Giving me two years to get things ready and hopefully within that year find a the child I am ment to adopt. Thank you for giving me hope.

  6. Edgar M says:

    Brian,
    I am so glad I ran into this article makes me really not want to give up wanting to be a father. Most of my friends would say that I am crazy for wanting to be a father, but I think that is one of lifes greatest joy. You are a true beacon of hope that a single male can in fact adopt.

    • Edgar, thanks so much! Never give up hope!

    • Hear, hear! Edgar, your entire comment expresses exactly what I wanted to say, too.

      Though I’ve been single for a while, I still hope to find a wife one day and adopt several children. Obviously I’ve considered the possibility of adopting as a single male, otherwise I wouldn’t have found this article. :-) I always assumed this would be effectively impossible, but this is encouraging. I’ve long felt my primary role in life is to be a dad. My heart burns the longer I go without the means to fulfill my purpose. This beautiful story renews my hope and refreshes my spirit. Brian, thank you for sharing.

  7. marline louis says:

    i want to adpot

  8. I was looking for articles about adoption and then I came to your site. BTW, I am 21 years old and has a stable job and good financial condition. I was really moved by your story. It inspired me to be a good father to my future son (or should I say sons). I am a filipino and I am Bisexual and I think I will not be able to get married that’s why since I was 16, I was already thinking of adopting a child. I want a boy because I really think that I will be a really good father to him. All the things that my father wasn’t able to show or give to me I will give it to my son. But all in all, THANK YOU! You inspired me a lot! I want to buy your book! Is there any possible way to do it? Btw, while I was reading your story I was crying especially in the part where your agency called you and told you they “found the one”. I am very happy for you and for your sons! I hope to hear from you soon! Any advice? :)

    • Bryan,

      Thanks for the comments and I appreciate the fact that you felt some sense of connection with my story. The best advice I can give you is to hold fast to your dreams and to never give up on them no matter what you are told you can make them happen. Being a father is the greatest role a man can play in this life.

      You can find the books online either through amazon or barnes and noble, but they are distributed and sold worldwide. Thanks again, your comments only help me continue to work toward helping others hold fast and achieve their dreams!

      Brian

  9. A beautiful post, these sterotyped ideas of what makes a parent help no one, men, women or children. I have written many times of the children lost because society assumes that women are born with the ability to care and nurture, the flip side of the sexist clap trap that made you jump through hoops to do something you are clearly cut out for.

    It also reminds me of something one of my partners wrote recently ( I am non monogmous) “Does Mark Kennedy wake up at that point in the night where absent dads in empty houses imagine they’ve heard a child’s colicky whimper?” It made me cry in its honesty and beauty.

    People tend to assume men do not yearn, do not carry that boundless love that is all powerful, and when it comes down to it that love is all children really need.

    Your son is blessed to have such a parent, and I hope you bring attention to the underlying prejudices in the whole adoption process.

  10. Lori Kinkler says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Brian! I am currently conducting a qualitative study on single adoptive dads (and moms) by choice. I haven’t heard from any dads yet (but I know they are out there!). In order to participate, dads must be currently pursuing adoption, or they can have adopted their first kid within the last year. Will you please help me spread the word? I am hoping to give a voice to stories like yours within the scholarly community, to hopefully influence policy change. Please contact me at [email protected] if interested!

  11. Thank you so much.

    Ive struggled with relationships and its refreshing to know that my dream can one day come true.

    I may only be young (21) , but i know i have nothing to be scared of now.

    Good luck to everyone facing this now and in the future, its true inspiration.

  12. I want to adopt so badly says:

    I’m a single woman and I have always wanted to adopt. I’m totally asexual but would love to find somebody who would like to form a family and adopt a child with me.

  13. Brian,

    As a single gay male myself, I have always been deeply motivated to embark on the adoption process. Your story truly gives me hope and the strength to push forward despite obstacles that may face me along the way. I recently had my 29th birthday and I feel more and more each day how much I am ready to be a father. I have wanted a son for as long as I can remember. I am quickly becoming financially stable and feel this is the best time as any to embark on this journey. Do you have any advice on how I should begin this process?

  14. Rafael Torres says:

    Hi Brian! My name is Rafael, thanks for sharing your story. Since little I always wanted to be a dad! But always thought won’t be possible because I’m gay!! Now I’m in that crossroad where I feel I’m ready to start my family. I have a boyfriend we have talked about tiny the doesn’t want to have kids. But I’m so determine to have a so I don’t care to be single. I’ve been reading a lot a About it… And it’s expensive and it seems so hard and such a long wait process! But reading your story proof me I can do it! Do you help single people to adopt? Let me know!!!

    Thanks so much

  15. i’m 25, and not keen on getting married…but i can’t help but think whether i’ll want to have a child when i’m in my 40s…hopefully by that time, society will have progressed enough to allow single straight men to adopt kids..

  16. This article was a wonderful find. I was searching for a way to network with other single men who have adopted or are planning to adopt. Reading Michael’s story hit home, as I feel the same way quite often. I am a 38 year old gay male who plans to adopt. I am the only single male in my adoption agency. There are about 90 other couples/individuals. There may be five single women, but only one man, me. My odds seem against me, but it is a hurdle I plan to make. Adopting a newborn on my own will be a big challenge, but like Michael said. I would not sacrifice it for anything. I sacrificed it for many years, always putting my boyfriend first. It wasn’t until December 2012 that I jumped two feet in to peruse my dream of becoming a father. A husband may never happen, but I know being a father will happen.

    I think Michael’s story is a wonderful story, and one to be heard. If he ever wants to share his story with my employer’s adoption network group, I am sure we would be honored to have him speak at a future brown bag meeting. I work for a large retail corporation.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Good Men Project Magazine is currently featuring a story entitled “A Single Man’s Adoption Story” written by Brian Tessier. In addition to being a proud parent of two boys, Brian is a member of [...]

  2. [...] Below is my favorite quote from the article. You can read the entire piece here. [...]

  3. [...] Originally Posted by wyverary I always thought that if I wanted children I would stay single and adopt one. Alas, adoption is a long and (from what I have heard) difficult and very, very expensive way to go. Lacking a uterus, it would unfortunately be my only option. While I know single mothers who have adopted, I do not know how much more difficult it would be as a single (though asexual) man–especially considering I would likely opt for a girl. In any case, you are (both) definitely right in that financial stability is an imperative prerequisite. Other thoughts? It might be harder, but single men do adopt. A Single Man [...]

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