Michael Klevenz was an ordinary guy with an ordinary dream: He wanted to be a dad. Only problem was, he didn't have anyone to be a mom.
"I had been in a long-term relationship," Klevenz told Ann Pleshette Murphy, the parenting contributor on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "It just wasn't working out, so at that point, because I was getting older, I decided I still wanted children and I thought the best way to do that was through adoption."
So, still single, Klevenz took the parenting plunge and is now the proud father of Mike and Joseph, both 12 years old. They were 5 and 8 when he adopted them.
But as a heterosexual single man, he had to fight to form a family, even though the children he adopted were older and thus considered harder to place.
National statistics are not available for confidentiality reasons, but the National Adoption Center says that one-third of its adoptions are by single parents, and while most are women, the number of men adopting solo is growing.
Screenings for Singles
The screening process is the same for a single parent as for a couple. However, agencies want to know that you have not just the financial ability to adopt a child, but also a demonstrable support system of family and friends who can be there when you cannot.
"A lot of the organizations really were not interested in a single person," Klevenz said. "But at the time and even now, you're not allowed to discriminate in that regard."
Nevertheless, some single dads reported some "off the record" inquiries about their sexual orientation, and if there would be a female presence in the child's life.
Many people are not used to a single man adopting.
"People used to think that being placed with a two-parent family was the ideal, that this was the only way," says Gloria Hochman, director of communications for the National Adoption Center. "It was mother, father, boy, girl, picket fence and so forth. The image of a family has changed dramatically."
Something Special to Offer
The center, which places older and special-needs children, has 120,000 youngsters waiting for a home.
"When we look at single dads, we see that they can be a terrific resource for children," Hochman says. "Usually it would be someone who thinks they have parenting skills whether they have parented before or not. And someone who believes that they have something special to offer.
"And when someone feels that way — I think it makes them a better parent. Because they go into this so enthusiastically," she says.
Agency professionals have said that if a child was in an abusive situation with his or her biological mother, or has special needs, a single dad can be a stabilizing factor. Another advantage of single adoptive dads: Many adopt older boys, a group that is historically difficult to place.
Private adoptions of a healthy baby can cost up to $30,000 and foreign adoptions cost between $10,000 and $20,000. Children who are adopted when they are older or if they have physical challenges are harder to place, so they are often adoptable free of charge, and sometimes agencies subsidize the adoptions.
Women Intrigued by Single Dads
Weekend soccer games, a family dog, homework, and a full-time job can make for an overwhelming schedule. Klevenz is also president of the Adoption Resource Exchange for Single Parents, which helps men navigate in a world that's still surprised to see a single guy with kids.
Another single dad, Ken Johnson, has adopted eight children over the past 20 years.
"You also find that it's not a stigma," Johnson says. "Guys out here now are saying hey, you know, I can be me, you know, and still be a good parent to some kid."
And Klevenz found that his status as single father piqued some interest among women.
"I actually have had a lot of women go out with me once they found out I was a single adoptive dad," he says. "But that was more out of a curiosity. I was an oddity. They wanted to find out, well, why did you do it?"
And are there any days that he asks the same question?
"Every day. Every day I get up, I question myself," Klevenz says. "Have I done the right thing? Am I doing the right thing?"
The answer, he says, is in his sons.
"When you look back on how well they've adjusted or you get the comments from the teachers or friends on how great those kids are, then you know I did a good job with them," he says.