June 20, 2004


For single guys, more hurdles to adoption (G. Jeffrey McDonald, Christian Science Monitor, June 20th, 2004)

Six years ago, a 7-year-old Cuban-Puerto Rican boy named Jeremy was living with a foster family in Massachusetts and wondering if anyone would ever adopt him. After all, most adopters want infants. At 7, he might be considered too old.

But Matt Paluszek, who was in his mid-30s, was also doing some wondering: Would he ever get married and have children - or if not, might he be able to adopt?

Like an increasing number of single men, Mr. Paluszek explored the adoption option and found it just right for him.

As Father's Day arrives this Sunday, he and other single dads are giving thanks for the children they've recently adopted - more than 5,000 of them between 1998 and 2001 - either in spite of or because of their ages and special needs.
Yet even as they claim a niche as appreciated dads to the needy, the single man's adoptive path to parenthood is not getting easier.

Several factors dot the landscape with obstacles. For one, most foreign countries - even if they are willing to part with their orphaned or abandoned children - prohibit adoption by single men. And in America, where all 50 states permit single adults to adopt, church-related abuse scandals have recently raised the bar for single men trying to prove their fitness for parenthood.

"For some agencies, men are suspect because of the sex-abuse scandals. They wonder why a man would ever want to adopt," said Grace Brace, executive director of the International Adoption Services Centre, a nonprofit agency in Gardiner, Maine that supports single male adoption. "With everything that's happening, I believe it is becoming harder for men to adopt."

It is an open secret that, despite gender neutral laws, family courts continue to award children, especially small children, to the care of their mothers in most cases. All sorts of trendy catchphrases and psychobabble are used to justify this, but much of it stems from an unspoken, atavistic unease we have with the idea of men raising children on their own. This puts modern law in a position of hypocrisy, but is it wrong to feel this way despite the obvious truth that many widowers and divorced dads do splendid jobs with their kids?

The fact is we have fears about men and children, especially their non-biological children, we do not generally have with women. At the most extreme, sexual abuse of children is almost always a male crime. We are enraged and retributive when men harm or even kill their children, but in the much rarer cases when mothers do so, our sense of meaning is completely shattered. Men abandon their children much more often than women. At the other end, even the best of fathers know that there are certain emotional needs they simply cannot deliver to the young ones. A toddler may absolutely adore his doting father, but when his fever rises half a degree all thoughts and needs are directed at Mom. Sad indeed is the child who finds that vessel empty.

Men really come into their own when the child is old enough to start needing a guide, model and mentor. That is about the same age a child starts having some capacity to defend himself from paternal severity and excess. Given the unsatisfactory nature of much foster care, a wise and compassionate policy here would be to allow these selfless single men to adopt boys who are at least about seven or eight, but not girls or toddlers. This is probably impossible, as speaking openly about gender differences and what we all viscerally feel is as shocking to many today as talking about sex was to the Victorians. Our political correctness trumps the welfare of children every time.

Posted by Peter Burnet at June 20, 2004 7:41 AM

A corollary to your comments about men coming into their own "when the child is old enough to start needing a guide, model and mentor", is that as the children get older and turn into pre-teens and teenagers, women lose the ability to control them, especially boys.

Posted by: Brandon at June 20, 2004 1:33 PM

How can i find a agency that will let me adopt, i'm single but would li,e very much to adopt a child.

Posted by: Larry at June 23, 2004 2:43 PM

How can i find a agency that will let me adopt, i'm single but would like very much to adopt a child.

Posted by: Larry at June 23, 2004 2:44 PM