Tips For Single Women Who Want To Adopt

We’ll level with you. It can be difficult to adopt as a single woman.

The Challenges Of Adopting As A Single Parent

Decades ago, it would have been all but impossible to find an agency willing to place a child in a single-parent home. In some states, it would have been illegal. Things are changing for the better. Single-parent families have become more prevalent, and more socially-accepted, as the rate of divorce has increased. That trend has allowed some adoption agencies to see that single parents can provide wonderful, loving homes for children, despite the outmoded preconceptions of yesteryear.

But single-parent adoption continues to be a challenge. Many adoption agencies still refuse to work with singles – and some even implement formal policies that exclude singles. In the adoption world, single women have to struggle against a traditional concept of parenting, one that only sees two-parent homes (and usually a married heterosexual couple) as “legitimate.”

Internationally, a number of countries, including China, have laws that prevent single parents abroad from adopting. Other countries don’t rule out the possibility entirely, but only allow single parents to adopt children with special needs. And, domestically, it’s simply a fact that many expectant parents are unwilling to choose a single person, rather than a couple.

Are You Ready & Able To Adopt?

Before starting their adoption journey, every prospective adoptive parent has to step back, take a long look at their life and figure out if adoption is the right choice. It’s no different for single people, but remember that the responsibilities of parenting will fall entirely on your own shoulders. Will you be able to balance work and your new duties as a parent? How will you handle emergencies, when your child needs to be picked up from school but you’re still at the office? Do you have a support structure strong (and willing) enough to pitch in when you need help? Answer these questions before you commit.

Starting Your Adoption Journey

Prospective single parents often choose to adopt through the foster care system, because state-based foster programs, guided by federal regulations, aren’t allowed to discriminate. Today, as many as one-third of all adoptions completed through foster programs place children in single-parent homes, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. There’s also some evidence that children who have experienced trauma earlier in their lives benefit from the stability and consistency of having a single adoptive parent. Combined with the international laws we noted earlier, it should be no surprise that around 25% of children with special needs who are adopted live in single-parent homes.

Know Your Adoption Agencies

As we mentioned before, you can still find adoption agencies that refuse to work with single people. Then there are adoption agencies who declare themselves accepting of single prospective adoptive parents, but don’t actually follow through on this promise. You’ll submit your adoption profile and complete the home study, only to find that the agency is “holding out” for a couple to apply in your stead.

None of this means that you can’t find a private adoption agency that truly supports single adoptive parents. But you’ll have to do your research. Agencies understand the challenges faced by single prospective adoptive parents. That’s why organizations that actually encourage single women to apply are pretty vocal about it. Do a quick search on a local adoption agency’s website for resources geared toward single people. Check the agency’s home page; do they mention single parents in a positive way? Now scroll through their roster of “Waiting Families.” Do you see single men or women represented there? Is the agency making an effort to put single prospective adoptive parents in front of expectant parents?

Of course, you should reach out to any friends or family members who have adopted. Visit plenty of message boards where you’ll find the experiences of actual people. Ask other commenters where single women have had success adopting. But nothing compares to meeting with the social workers at an adoption agency to gauge their reaction when you, as a single woman, say “I want to adopt.” So when you’ve narrowed down your list of options, set up a meeting and get face-to-face.

Maxine Chalker, MSW / LSW, is the founder and executive director at Adoptions From The Heart, a private non-profit adoption agency recognized for leading the advancement of “open” adoption.

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