In the last 20 years there has been a steady, sizable increase in the number of single-parent adoptions. Why would a successful, independent single man or woman want to give up his or her freedom and assume the responsibilities of raising a child? The desire to nurture and to share life as a family is a strong universal need that is felt by a large number of people and one that is not exclusive to married people or couples.
A number of factors have encouraged the acceptance of single-parent families. Perhaps most is the growing number of one-parent households due to divorce and to unmarried women having and keeping their children. With so many children living in this type of home environment, adoption agencies have been more willing to consider unmarried men and women as prospective adopters. And the latest research indicates that children raised in single adoptive parent families compare favorably with other adopted children and show a healthy involvement with friends and family as well as in the activities of their age group.
Here's what to expect if you are considering single parent adoption:
Despite the greater acceptance of single-parent adoption, the traditional view of parenting, that a child needs a mother and a father for healthy growth and development, still exists. Mental health experts say that the "ideal" is to place a child in a two-parent home with a mother and father who are compatible and loving. However, there are many children for whom this "ideal" is not possible and many single people who feel that such bias is unfair.
Your family and friends may be your first hurdle. They may not understand why anyone would assume the responsibility for raising a child alone. They may ask if you have lost your senses. It may or may not be possible for you to convince them that you know what you are doing.
Agencies have varying policies in dealing with single applicants. Some don't accept them at all. Others may put your application and request for a home study (a family assessment) on the back burner while waiting to find a couple who wants to adopt. The children offered to you may have disabilities that you cannot handle, or be 12 years old when you requested a toddler. If you pursue independent adoption (a path to adoption with no agency involvement), birth mothers may balk when they learn you are single.
Single men face even tougher scrutiny as they are asked intimate questions about their sexuality, motives, friends, and living arrangements. They may be qualified to parent and still be turned down.
Going at it alone is not easy. Adoptive parents and agencies, in preparing prospective adoptive parents, stress the importance of having friends and family who can lend support and serve as a backup system.
It will also help if you can demonstrate to a potential adoption agency that you have thought through some of the long-term implications of being a single adoptive parent. For example, if you have evaluated your financial situation thoroughly before going to an agency, and can present a realistic picture of how you plan to provide for a child over the years, they will see how serious and stable you are.
As you approach agencies and other adoption resources, you have to believe in yourself. The process may not be a smooth one and you may have some doors closed to you. But as one successful adopter put it, "You have to believe that there is a child somewhere in the world waiting for you." Your determination and assertiveness can make your dream come true.
And lastly, remember you're not alone. There's a network of support for single parents who would like to adopt. Here are a few places to start:
Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse