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Applying as a single person due to unusual relationship set up

Amandina April 12, 2022 17:04

Will try to briefly summarise but wanted advice re applying a single person if a relationship doesn't meet the usual criteria.

My partner is really keen to adopt as she has no birth children. We have been together four years and known each other for 20 - very stable but we don't live together. I have children from a previous relationship and live with them (part time - I have 50/50 arrangement with my ex) in another city an hour away. I stay with my partner every other weekend for long weekends and she visits me occasionally too.

We accept that we might not be able to adopt as a couple as we don't live together, but as she doesn't have any legal rights over my children, we are happy for her to adopt as a single person with me being just part of the support act like her other close friends and family. I know its unusual, but I think its actually quite a nice balanced arrangement and it works really well for us at present as we do some family things together with my children, like holidays etc, but my children get plenty 121 time with me.

She was just told by an agency that she couldn't adopt at all if she is in a relationship with me. Seems such a small thing to turn her down for as she has so much going for her otherwise in her application as we are very happy to be flexible with arrangements/how we adapt moving forwards. Can anyone advise if its worth looking at other agencies/approaching it another way somehow. We're both pretty devastated.

Serrakunda27 April 12, 2022 20:40

The only criteria to adopt as a single adopter, is in fact, that you are single. Your partner is not single, she cannot therefore adopt as a single adopter.

Its not a small thing at all.

This might be a nice arrangement that suits you both and your children, but you need to think about the child she is potentially adopting. How do you really see yourself fitting into to this hypothetical child’s life? You are their mum’s partner, not just part of the support network. What does the child call you, how do you explain the comings and goings? What is your role if you are there a significant amount of time. How do your children fit it with this - do you see them as siblings to this child?

Can you not see how difficult this would be for a child who has already had a disrupted life? It seems to me that you have set your lives up to support your relationships with your children. This is of course absolutely right and commendable. But it doesn’t put the adopted child at the centre - where they need to be.

There is no harm in speaking to other agencies but I would be surprised if you get anywhere. To use a football analagy, adoption is a game of two halves. First you have to be assessed by a social worker and approved by a panel. Then another set of social workers and another panel have to approve you for a specific child. They want the best option for that child - there is no shortage of adopters at the moment, why would they choose your partner over a more conventional set up - be that a single person or a couple?

Just as an aside - I’m a single adopter, I have an amazing son. Its been a tough road but I have no regrets. To be frank, if I’d had to go through what I have done in the last 10 years ( which being honest has been a breeze compared to some people I know) with a partner who turned up every two weeks, I’d have ditched the partner. It would have been totally disruptive to my child and our relationship, interfered with our routines and everything I was doing to give him the stability he needed. I would have had no energy for the other person and I think I would have resented them clearing off back home and leaving me with the problems.

From your point of view, it could be many, many months before you would be able to stay with your partner, let alone your partner stay with you. Many years ago I was in a long distance relationship. He turned up at the weekends which were uncluttered by housework, food shopping or DIY. Just time together- all very nice. Is this what your life is like now, every other weekend? What happens when your partner ends up with a challenging child, very probably with additional needs, who doesnt want you around, sees you as a rival and lets you know it. What then?

All good reasons why you can’t adopt as a single adopter if you are in fact, in a relationship. I’m sorry if all this sounds harsh but it the reality I think.

Edited 12/04/2022
chestnuttree April 12, 2022 22:33

I agree with Serrakunda. I think both of you underestimate how traumatised most adopted children are and what that means for their family's life and relationships. I do not mean that as a criticism, pretty much all non-adopters do. I suggest you read "Building the bonds of attachment" by Dan Hughes and "No Matter What" by Sally Donovan.

Donatella April 13, 2022 14:17

Also agree with Serrakunda. Where and how does this prospective new child fit into your family? Will they be siblings or not? How would your existing children take to sharing you with another child - you say you won’t be a father figure but if you’re the mother’s partner … well what does that make you?

The long and short is that you’re in a relationship with your partner so neither of you are single. Ultimately social workers will look for the most appropriate family for a child - not a child to fit in with an existing family.

Way too confusing for a traumatised child. Sorry

Amandina April 13, 2022 17:00

Thanks for your responses everyone. I wasn't aware there was such a surplus of people applying to adopt. We are a same sex couple so I wouldn't be a father figure. I'm not going to the arrangement completely unskilled. I'm a qualified secondary teacher and now own a nursery and have lots of SEND experience and have worked with looked after children over the years.

I think I kind of thought that because my partner has no legal rights over my children that it would be a similar arrangement and she would just be the actual parent with me in a support role much like her twin sister. My children, who have had a tricky start to life with my abusive ex partner have adapted really well to this arrangement and really value time with my partner as its an added fun extra on top of all the 121 time they have with me. I know its unconventional, but that's what queer families often are and I don't see that as a negative. I love my partner so much and want to support her whatever it takes to become a parent so am happy to take a back seat while the children settle in. She is happy to take harder to place children such as sibling groups or older children and I think she would be awesome at it but I take on board all your points and appreciate I may be focusing on the positives as I really want this to work out for her and the potential children and tend to have a bit of a 'we can make this work' kind of attitude.

Serrakunda27 April 13, 2022 17:31

I think being a queer couple is irrelevant to be honest. there was a similar thread from a a straight couple on a different forum a few months ago, with a similar set up. They got the same response.

You can't put yourself in the same category as her sister. Its a completely different relationship. Her sister isnt a part time resident in her house, she will have a clear family identity as an Aunt - any children would be cousins. What would your relationship be?

Can I ask how you have factored your children and their reaction in to to this. I used to be a ‘fun auntie’ to my oldest friends kids, the person I went to primary school with who I knew for 45 years before my son came home. I rocked up every few months, spoilt the kids, brought them interesting presents from my travels, everything fitted in round them. Then it changed, suddenly they weren’t my primary focus, after initial curiosity they weren’t interested in him and were jealous. They didnt budge an inch. It hurt my son very much.

My friend also couldnt deal with my new status as a mum, she thought she knew better, because she was ‘experienced’. We drifted apart, are no longer friends.

Can you honestly say you would leave all the parenting to your partner? what if you don’t see eye to eye.

As part of the assessment process relationships between partners are scrutinised in a very different way to those with other people.

As a single person, I have several very close female friendships who I rely on heavily for support. But at the end of the day its down to me. I would expect very different support from a partner - it's a joint responsibility.

If this were to happen you could be taking a back seat for a very long time. I adopted an older child. He was like a limpet for 18 months. No one stayed overnight in our home during that time. Where does that leave your relationship.

It's really nothing to do with your skills and experience or whether or not your partner would be a great mum. Its about putting the child at the centre and seeing things from their perspective.

You also cannot compare your children to an adopted child. They may have had a tricky start but bottom line is they are still with you and have not experienced the trauma of losing a birth mother

Edited 13/04/2022
Donatella April 13, 2022 18:12

Practical things to consider

Social Workers will be keen that this child has time - a long time - to settle in, to form a bond with its parent, and will want reassurance that if mum is single then there’s to be no relationship any time soon. Frankly she won’t have the time if energy to focus on that small person a a bigger one. How long are you prepared to take a back seat for? Months? A year? In my day it was expected that a new adopter would take a year’s adoption leave at least.

In reality it often means that working patterns need rejigging and that a parent simply cannot return to a full time job. Many children simply cannot cope with childcare, for instance. I know many adopters and certainly when children are younger then the majority have either been unable to work or have have to change working patterns. I’m one of the former. And it doesn’t necessarily get easier as they get older - just different.

Adoptees will come with additional needs - regardless of age. It’s rarely as simple as attachment - adoptees are very complex little people, even babies. Many come from dysfunctional birth families, families with a history of mental illness, of neurodiversity (often undiagnosed), with histories of drug and alcohol abuse. Assume there will be complications. How will those be accommodated?

Your educational experience - irrelevant given you’re not going to be involved in raising this child. And, frankly, having had two (out of three) children with additional learning needs and going through special Ed … well living with it 24/7 is a whole lot different to teaching it. My kids have been in special Ed since primary school - some establishments are infinitely more ‘special’ than others. I now support parents who are trying to make their way through the system - it doesn’t get easier.

Your children. Are they aware of these plans? Are they supportive? Will they be involved?

You also mention that your ex partner was abusive - if you do become involved then bear in mind social workers may want to speak to your children and/or ex partner.

What do you/does your partner think a harder to place child looks like? What exactly does that mean? Sibling group - that’ll mean at least two separate bedrooms. And exhaustion for your partner. What hands on, at the drop of a hat, support does she have? If you’re away with your children, who’s there to support her? Does she have a robust support network other than you.

So much to consider but ultimately the needs of the child must come first. You’re either there for her and the child or you’re not.

chestnuttree April 13, 2022 21:43

There isn't a surplus in adoptive families. However, that does not mean anyone can come along and adopt and the child will have to make do. Adopted children have rights. If prospective parents are not up to the task, the adoption will disrupt and that will be worse for the child than staying in care. You can be "unconventional", but you need to be child-centred and reliable and most of all, you need to be there. Some adopted children become delusional when their parents go for a walk, because they get so anxious.

You underestimate how traumatised these children are, what that means for them and their families, and how differently they need to be cared for and parented. They need much more structure and routine than other children. They need to know exactly who is who and what each relationship is. A lot of very confusing and scary things have happened in their lives and they need clarity. Due to that they are usually very inflexible and struggle massively with transitions. The list goes on.

This is not so much about what your partner (and you) can offer, but about what an adopted child needs and if your partner/you can provide that.

Lettice April 14, 2022 10:06

Twenty years ago, this situation was much less unusual. In those days, unmarried couples were not allowed to adopt and so one partner would be the legal adopter including when the couple lived together. I adopted older siblings 20 years ago in a situation not dissimilar to your partner's. My boyfriend became carer to his mother and I had moved over 200 miles away. He would come and stay every couple of months. He was dbs checked and interviewed and deemed to be a reliable member of my support network.

I have seen frequent posts like yours over the years and unfortunately have only come across two or three others who have been successful. If you look back through the archives you will probably find them. In practice, voluntary agencies who specialise in harder-to-place children may take a more balanced view because they help a wider pool of children for whom there is a smaller pool of potential adopters. If your partner has strong positives such as experience of particular special needs or disabilities, or willingness to take a child with contact arrangements etc. then it might alter the balance. But sadly she may well run out of agencies to try without finding one that will take her on.

Serrakunda27 April 14, 2022 11:03

I’ve always thought your situation was a bit different though Lettice. Where people have lives which are integrated and there are other children involved its s lot more complex.

I probably could have coped with someone turning up every few months, but not every other weekend.

Safia April 14, 2022 11:59

It might be a good idea to contact a few agencies and have an informal chat with them to get some idea of what could be possible - particularly voluntary agencies as they work more with adopters than local authorities who’s remit is to find families for the children they currently have or soon may have needing placements. Then you should have a clearer idea of what changes might be needed / accepted before you (or your partner) apply. It may be that you’ve got quite a bit of thinking and talking to do before getting to the next stage. Good luck with it all

Amandina April 14, 2022 14:23

Many thanks everyone. Appreciate your input. Indeed, we are just at the very start of looking into this and will def do a lot more research and thinking about what we are suitable for. Have ordered some of the books recommended. I did chat to social worker friend who suggested doing something like supported lodging for older teens/young adults/care leavers so looking into that also.


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