Single Adoptive Parents

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single adoptive parents

Because of much media attention to single biological parents, many of whom are low-income and struggling, single adoptive parents have found they have often been mistakenly categorized with this group. Yet this stereotype is unfairly applied to the average single adoptive parent, according to the NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR SINGLE ADOPTIVE PARENTS, a support group that says most single adoptive parents familiar to the organization are middle-class females and nearly half are members of the "helping professions": teachers, social workers, nurses and other career fields.

Many are very well-educated, according to the group, which says that the overwhelming majority of the people it surveyed are college graduates with many having earned postgraduate degrees. Most of the single adoptive parents adopt their children while they are in their thirties or early forties. (Single adoptive parents are still in the minority, and most adoptive parents are couples.)

Until the 1980s, it was difficult to impossible for the average single woman or man to adopt a child of any age. If the single person was considered as a prospective adoptive parent, she or he was usually considered only for the most difficult to place children, often children needing extensive care and attention, for whom no other options were available. Yet single individuals usually were (and are) employed full-time and may find it very difficult to care for children with severe physical handicaps.

Some experts believe couples should still be given priority in adopting children. They argue that just because a single woman or man wants a child doesn't mean they are automatically entitled to a child or would make a good parent.

Yet it is important to note that many single adoptive parents adopt older children, handicapped children and children who are considered to have SPECIAL NEEDS. Even when single parents choose to adopt an infant, it is usually an infant from another country and often an infant urgently needing a family and yet considered hard to place because of race, medical problems or other factors. As a result, the child gains a much-needed parent.

Single Men

It may still be difficult for a single man to adopt an unrelated child, either in the United States or internationally. Experts hypothesize that women are perceived as nurturing and adoption is a nurturing act. But the motivations of a man who wishes to adopt may be suspect. In addition, some overseas nations will accept applications from single adoptive women but not single adoptive men.

Mary Ann Curran of Adoption Services of WACAP in Seattle, Washington explained the problem:

"Not many countries accept men. We have had some very successful placements with single men, but unfortunately our options are very limited" (by the necessity of complying with the criteria of the overseas nation.)

Agencies and Support Groups

Although some agencies refuse to accept applications from single adoptive parents, other agencies concentrate on working with singles, because of very positive experiences with single adoptive parents. The National Council for Single Adoptive Parents offers periodic newsletters with listings of agencies that work with singles, and other support groups are also highly aware of which agencies are responsive to single adoptive parent applicants and which are less responsive.

There are also support groups specifically geared to singles, such as the National Council for Single Adoptive Parents, and other groups nationwide. (The Report on Foreign Adoption, published by the INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS FOR CHILDREN, includes information on support groups for singles.) In addition, many adoptive parent groups have subgroups of singles who are seeking to adopt or already have adopted a child.


The primary motivation of a single person wishing to adopt is congruent with the primary motivation of a married couple who wishes to adopt: the desire for a child to love and cherish. The difference is that most couples who adopt are infertile, whereas the single person may or may not be infertile.

Singles may be given support from their families and friends, or they may be treated with incredulity.

Agencies cannot presume couples will stay married, nor should they presume singles will forever remain single. Instead, say singles, what should be looked at is the individual person and his or her potential parenting capacity.

Christine Adamec, There ARE Babies to Adopt (New York: Kensington, 1996).

National Council for Single Adoptive Parents, "Who Wants to Be a Single Adoptive Parent?" (Chevy Chase, Md.: CSAP, 1990).

Hope Marindin, ed., The Handbook for Single Adoptive Parents (Chevy Chase, Md.: National Council for Single Adoptive Parents, 1997).

Find more information on single adoptive parents

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