When he got out of a relationship with a woman in November 2014, Cecil Stokes didn’t the take the approach I would expect from a fresh-into-his-40s, single guy. I would think he’d jump onto some dating apps, or throw himself into work and friendships, or settle into the sweet relief of new-found freedom.

Nope. He decided to become a foster parent.

Stokes didn’t initially feel much support from friends, who told him it’s unheard of for a single guy to adopt. (I definitely haven’t heard any of my single guy friends suggest that yet.) But he listened to a child’s adoption story at church the next Sunday.

“I felt like I received a sign that it was my time,” he said.

To clarify, when Stokes — now 43, living in Birkdale Village and self-employed through TentMakers Entertainment — decided he wanted to become a foster parent, he knew he wanted to foster for the sake of adopting a child. He said he never felt a biological need to have his own child and half-jokingly added, “There is a lot of crazy in my family.”

That changed the way he dated — only going out with women who also wanted to adopt children. And that changed the way he spent his free time — by enrolling in a seven-week training program for aspiring foster parents with Department of Social Services in January 2015. Then he switched into a program with Children’s Home Society, an agency that could cut a clearer path toward adoption vs. simply fostering. (See eligibility requirements for being a foster or adoptive parent here.)

He completed a 30-hour course, got a criminal background check (and got reminded about two speeding tickets), got a physical, provided information about his monthly income and got his home checked by a fire marshal. All by May 2015. Two months later the state certified him as a foster parent.

Then he started looking at lists of children in need of care, like this one and this one. He filtered his search to kids whose parental rights had been terminated and were up for adoption.

He got a note one August morning about an 8-year-old named Boone, who needed to be out of his home that week as an emergency placement after being in 10 homes in three years.

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“I wanted to fight for him … before I even met him,” Stokes said. That same week, he was approved to foster Boone. Six months later he was eligible to begin adoption proceedings. They were legally declared father and son in March 2016.

What life looks like now

Stokes has fostered six other children for short periods of time. The single dad is staying extra busy picking Boone up at carpool, taking him to Tae Kwon Do and flag football and swimming, and settling into their nightly routine of watching cartoons on the couch before bedtime.

His ultimate goal is to adopt three children within three years, and then eventually take in more troubled children.

“There are 2,200 children in North Carolina that need a home right now,” he said. “And now that I know that, if I shut my eyes to it and I say I’ve done one, that’s all I needed to, I’m ashamed of myself.”

But he’s still having fun. He still has a social life — he goes out with single friends for movies on the weekends while a friend or relative babysits, he heads to Bible study one night during the week and he takes Boone out for play dates.

As for his own dates? “I am open to being back on the dating scene but I am working on one new relationship at a time right now,” he said.

Good answer.

Photos: Cecil Stokes