Raising a child or family is not restricted to couples or married parents. Over the years, there has been a steady yet remarkable increase in the number of adoptions by single parents. According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), USA, it was found that approximately 15,000 single women and nearly 2,000 single men adopted children or youth from foster care in 2017 (1).
With the growing number of one-parent households due to separation or divorce and an increasing number of educated professionals choosing to step into parenthood, adoption agencies are now more willing to consider single unmarried men and women as adopters.
Read this post to know more about the single-parent adoption process, and how you can prepare yourself to welcome a child into your home.
Can A Single Parent Adopt A Child?
The simple answer is yes. If you are ready and capable of taking care of a child, you can adopt as a single parent. However, before you delve into the process, you should, foremost, understand what kind of adoption to opt for—foster-to-adopt, international, domestic infant, kinship, or private domestic adoption. Each type of adoption has its pros and cons. For instance, in private domestic adoptions, birth parents choose the adoptive parents or parent.
In addition, eligibility and adoption guidelines, such as age, financial requirements, criminal records, state residency, and health status, for single parents may vary according to the states.
In the case of international adoptions, each country may have its own qualifying criteria, which can include age limit, household income, educational background, and mental and physical health requirements. If you are particularly interested in international adoptions, make sure to determine which countries allow single-parent adoption.
Things To Consider For Single Parents Adopting A Child
Treading alone is not easy—adoptive parents and adoption agencies should prepare the prospective single parents for the process and consider various things while arriving at this decision.
- Support system: A single parent needs a good support system. The involvement of families and friends to help and guide you when needed is crucial. You might need help when the child is sick or assistance to pick up or drop them from school or daycare when you are involved in work. You may also want somebody to act as a guardian for your child or expose them to your cultural or familial values while growing up. Therefore, a strong support system is an important factor to consider.
- Financial status: It is one of the most important eligibility criteria for both domestic and international adoptions. You need to plan for your child’s schooling, healthcare, etc., for the next 10 to 20 years. A strong and stable financial status is, thus, an important factor to consider.
- Career/ professional progression: As a single parent, you would need to support yourself and your child’s needs. You should, therefore, consider your future career goals, working schedule, job-related travel requirements, and leave policies. A healthy work-life balance will enable you to plan for childcare, school activities, extracurricular activities, health emergencies, or other important life events.
Obstacles To Single-Parent Adoption
Although single-parent adoption is gaining acceptance, the traditional view of parenting involving a father and a mother to raise a child persists. A child needs a loving and stable home—be it in a single or two-parent household.
However, single parents may face bias and obstacles.
- Family and friends: Often, friends and families can become your first and biggest hurdle. They may find it difficult to comprehend how you would single-handedly manage the responsibility of raising a child. Convincing them about your decision may be difficult.
- Adoption agencies: Adoption agencies have different policies towards single parents, same-sex couples, or LGBTQ adopters. For instance, some agencies may not accept your application, and others may request a home study or a family assessment. In other cases, birth parents may have apprehensions or step back when they learn about your single adopter status.
In addition, single men may face stricter scrutiny as they may be questioned about intimate details, such as their sexuality, intentions, friends, or living conditions.
Advice For Single Parents Who Want To Adopt
- Join a support group: You are not alone. Make sure to join a support group or a network for single parents. These groups can offer you advice and emotional support during pre-adoption and post-adoption processes.
- Plan well for the future: When meeting an adoption agency, demonstrate you are well-prepared for the long-term implications and have contemplated how you will manage aspects of your life when the child arrives. For instance, you can evaluate your financial status before going to an agency and show your seriousness and commitment to providing a stable future to a child.
- Brace yourself: The adoption process isn’t easy. It may take time, or you may face rejection. Believe in what you want and why you want it. Determination and perseverance can make the waiting period smoother.
Adoption Process For A Single Parent
- Select an adoption agency: Once you determine the type of adoption you would like, you should choose an adoption agency that will offer you support and training during the process. Feel free to ask for references of their clients. Prepare to ask the right questions—how many single adoptions did they complete last year, what support they provide specifically to single parents, and what are the costs or fees of home study, placement, and post-placement visits?
- Complete a home study: Home study or assessment is done to evaluate your environment as it provides crucial insights into how a child’s life would be at your home. During a home study, you may be required to complete paperwork related to your health, finances, employment, and background. You may also need reference letters from your friends, family, or employer. Besides, you may need to provide leave policy details and the childcare policies of your employer. You may also need to undergo a criminal record check/clearance. You may also be asked to present and report your views and ideas on family values, child-rearing, discipline, etc. This process can be overwhelming. However, it gives you time for self-reflection on how you will welcome the child in your home.
- Complete a pre-adoption training: During and after home study, you may be asked to complete pre-adoption training. The objective of such training is to make you aware of the challenges adopted children may face while adjusting to the new household. You may also learn about parenting, secure attachment, and race/ethnicity. This time can help you connect with other adopting parents and help you exchange information and experiences.
- Receiving a match: When the agency finds a match, you will receive a referral containing photos, background information, health and social information, and other information on the child or birth parents. Take your time and evaluate the referral. You may also talk to an adoption clinic or medical professional when reviewing a child’s life. Make sure to check for any red flags while assessing the birth parents’ background.
- Holding on: The adoption process may take weeks, months, or years. The waiting period can be the most difficult part of the adoption process. However, use this time to prepare yourself and your home for the child. Read about the child’s cultural identity, talk to other adoptive parents, prepare the child’s room, and ready your support system.
- Welcoming the child: It might be a surreal moment when you welcome your child. Make sure to write down your thoughts, click photos, and save souvenirs from that period to cherish those memories.
Many single parents have successfully adopted and raised children. The joy of welcoming a child outweighs the challenges faced by single adoptive parents. You must know that every adoptive family is different, and the children in single-parent households do grow and live happily. It is important that you prepare yourself well, plan your child’s future, and gather a strong support system to navigate through the journey of parenthood.