As a Single Black Woman I Was Discouraged From Adopting—Here's How I Made Space for My Family

At times, as a single Black woman, it seemed like adoption was not for me. But I pushed through challenges to realize my dream of being a mom.

Black mom holds infant daughter outside with sign announcing her adoption.
Photo: Courtesy of Joy Woodson

"Why don't you spend your money on something else?"

"Don't you want to have your own children?"

"You're really going to deny a child a father?"

Black women are hyper-sexualized, which leads to the myth that we're all supposed to be fertile, having children with reckless abandon.

It's offensive, and so were the many off-color comments from people —so-called friends; colleagues; random, nosey strangers—when they learned I was going at motherhood solo.

With my 40s careening toward me, I came to a crossroad: Keep waiting for marriage or take motherhood into my own hands. Medical complications decided for me.

After too many fertility treatments and no baby, I transitioned to adoption. It was always part of the plan but not the whole plan. I tried foster care adoption first, and that was a disaster.

This is when a social worker told me Black people don't adopt. "You're a unicorn," she said, alluding to non-relative placements.

I didn't want to give up on being a mom, but I didn't see a way forward. Private adoption was expensive. My job didn't provide any sort of adoption benefits, and the consultants said I needed at least $45,000.

Really? From where? Like many Black families, due to systemic racism, generational wealth was not in the cards for me. Many Black families typically rent, and don't own their homes— so no equity— and have more debt.

I do own my home and was able to use its equity, though, and I received $20,000 in grants. Competition is stiff, so this is atypical. I was grateful to eliminate at least one obstacle.

Adoptions are stressful, and private adoptions are unlikely, with an estimated 1 million to 2 million families waiting. The pandemic made adopting even more doubtful.

In 2020, there were about 40,000 private adoptions, down 20 percent from the previous year, according to a new report from the National Council for Adoption. (Half were stepparents.)

With many moms deciding to parent, gatekeepers put Black families at a disadvantage, even after they scrounge together the money.

Aaron Johnson founded WAT! (We Adopt Too) to help Black families with these costs. He gets more applicants than funds, challenging the myth that Black people aren't interested in adopting.

It's vital "to let people know we're needed, that we adopt, and other Black families can, too," he said. Still, he added, most of his applicants are couples, not singles.

This is the other reason I didn't consider private adoption. Some agencies, including large religious-based organizations, like Lutheran Family Services, won't work with single parents, and I never saw agencies marketing to Black families.

Pictures of smiling, hopeful adoptive white families abound. Most agencies are led by white directors, who mostly work with white attorneys. This dearth of Black representation does not instill confidence that anyone wants to help you become a mom.

One program director told me I had a great chance, but when I asked for a reference, she ghosted me. Another told me she couldn't remember the last single, Black woman she worked with.

"I call B.S.," says Michelle Hughes, a single, adoptive mom and one of few Black accredited adoption attorneys in the US . "They're not marketing to Black families. That is not on their radar."

Because many Black women get married later, if at all, they're older when they look at adoption and many are single. "When agencies only cater to couples, the demographics forces too many (of these) Black families out," Hughes says.

The consultants I settled on said they had worked with Black women. I did some sleuthing and found one who'd recently hired them. We compared notes, and I forked over $4,000 for their help.

After months of no matches, I learned someone working with my consultants had gotten matched through an advertising agency. They hadn't approached me, though.

Turns out there's little room for certain families on these sites. (Hughes has heard other Black families complain about this, too.) When a spot opened for a single, Black woman, I acted fast.

This is where the mom who picked me saw my profile. She picked only me. The agency told her to pick more options, but most of those "options" did not look like her.

I was listed for just three weeks.

"Some of it is all luck because expectant moms choose who they choose, and sometimes you happen to walk in the door at the right moment," Hughes says. "But usually, Black parents will get chosen faster, whether they happen to be singles or not."

Soon after, complications went from normal to bizarre, shocking my seasoned attorneys. One of them had to rescue the mom from a pack of deranged do-gooders, who told her adoption was evil.

While I waited, I didn't buy a bunch of baby stuff. I didn't pick a name. I left room for heartache.

But the mom didn't change her mind. On discharge day, she held the baby, we took pictures, and she talked about sleeping in her own bed.

My mom, sister, and true friends kept me sane in the chaos. I look at my baby daughter now, and I can't believe it.

After hearing details, most of which I've never made public, the last social worker to visit said something indelible. No other person could have done this, for this baby, and this birth mom. You are the only person.

This child was meant to be your daughter, she said. And so she was.

And so she is.


Are you considering adoption as a single, Black woman? These resources can help you fund your dreams and gain more insight:


The Federal Adoption Tax credit,

grants like Help Us Adopt,

Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys,


Gift of Adoption Fund


Yes We Adopt

Fab Moms

Mocha Single Mother by Choice.

Facebook Groups

Mocha Single Mother by Choice's African-American Adoptive Family Members

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