In 2020, the idea that a family has to consist of a mother and father and their biological children is, thankfully, outdated. The decisions of whether or not you want to get married and/or be a parent are deeply personal, and society is finally starting to understand that. This is true when it comes to adoption, also. Though there was once the idea that only married couples could adopt and single people shouldn’t even bother applying, that’s definitely not the case anymore. In fact, 28 percent of all children adopted from foster care in the United States were adopted by single people. If you’re single and considering adoption as a means of growing your family unit, here’s what you need to know about the process.
What is the process of single-parent adoption like?
The adoption process itself — in terms of finding an agency, submitting an application, etc. — is basically the same for prospective single parents. And like any type of adoption, you’re going to need to do some research first, considering things like whether you want an open or closed adoption, whether you’re willing to start off fostering a child, whether you want to adopt domestically or internationally, and what type of agency is right for you. Part of the process will also involve doing some preadoption training — which is something else all adoptive parents have to do.
Part of looking into adoption is also considering the type of support system you have: people who can step in to help if and when they’re needed. And again, this is something that any adoptive parents — single or otherwise — should think about, though it’s something that is likely to come up more during the process for solo parents.
How much does single-parent adoption cost?
The costs of adoptions vary, usually ranging from around $15,000 to $30,000 for the adoptive parents — whether they’re single or part of a couple. However, if you opt to adopt from foster care, it will be either low-cost or free. If you need financial assistance, there are federal or state tax credits, loans, grants, or employer-provided adoption benefits that may also be available to you as a single adoptive parent.
The steep costs of adoption shouldn’t deter you from taking the first step to adopt, nor should it lead you to drain your life savings and take out an exorbitant loan. Luckily, organizations like HelpUsAdopt.org give out grants of up to $15,000 for deserving prospective parents, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliation, marital status, and sexual orientation.
What does a home study entail in single-parent adoption?
In addition to home visits and interviews, a home study will require the adoptive parent to provide:
- Documentation on their health and income
- An autobiographical statement detailing their life story
- Background checks for anyone over the age of 16 in the household
- Information on other children in the home
- Personal reference letters from three or four family members and friends
What are some challenges of adopting as a single parent?
As anyone who has been through the adoption process — single or not — can tell you, it is not quick or easy. This is important to keep in mind every step of the way. “It can often feel like you’re being put under a microscope to get approved as an adoptive single parent,” Joyce Morse, a single adoptive parent writes on Adoption.org: “However, it’s becoming a lot more common for single people to form their own families through adoption. Just be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, and find a supportive agency to begin the process.”
Along the same lines, it’s a good idea to be prepared for some pretty insensitive comments to come your way about your decision to adopt as a single parent. It should go without saying that these comments — like all the other unsolicited remarks and advice we receive from people on a daily basis — are completely inappropriate, and in a perfect world, wouldn’t be something we had to deal with at all.
Dr. Marika Lindholm, a sociologist, single mother, and founder of ESME.com (which stands for Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere) has some insight into how to deal with these comments after the adoption has taken place. For starters, she says that single parents should be prepared to defend or deflect insensitive questions when their child is with them.
Lindholm also offers this advice, based on her own experience and expertise: “People often say, ‘Your daughter is so lucky she was adopted,’ and I respond, ‘No, I’m the lucky one.’ For random, naive questions, keep it short and sweet for your child’s sake. If the comment is demeaning, racist, or guaranteed to make your child feel awful, be prepared to stand up for your son or daughter. If you ignore these comments, it could send a message that you are condoning them or don’t take them seriously.”
What kind of support system are single parents considering adoption expected to have?
One unique aspect many single-parent adoptions are more likely to require is a plan in place should you need outside assistance. That comes in two forms. The first is obvious: babysitters. Since you don’t have a spouse or partner to back you up on childcare if you have an extra crazy work week, you need to show you have people in your life willing to step in when you can’t cover school emergencies or after-school care.
The more important area this covers, though, is what life will look like for your child in the event you should pass away. The last thing anyone (including you) wants is for your future child to end up back in foster care. For that reason, many agencies will require a plan of care and custody in the event of your death. This may or may not need to be written in stone. But, generally speaking, they’re going to want to see that you have people in your life (like siblings, parents, or best friends) who love your child enough to take them into their families.