If you have ever wanted to be a parent, but didn’t think having your own children was possible, there is always the option to adopt. If you are single, you can consider single parent adoption.
Do you think you qualify for single parent adoption? If you don’t think so, you may be surprised at what it takes to adopt a child. More and more, people are adopting kids outside of what is considered the “traditional” family framework, and that means more single people are adopting children.
If you have considered adopting a child, or want to know more about single parent adoption, this is a comprehensive guide to what you will need to know. From the cost to the legalities, the benefits to the pitfalls, and everything in between, you can learn all you need to know about single parent adoption here.
Single Parent Adoption Facts
Even just 40 years ago, you would not have been able to adopt a child if you were single, unless you were extremely wealthy and had the means to pay for backdoor deals. Today, though, that all has changed. Single parent adoption is the fastest growing trend in the adoption field.
According to a 2013 report, approximately one-third of all adoptions from foster care are by single people. In 2013, single parent adoptions made up about 28.2% of all adoptions in the US.
Research studies from 2016 have indicated that adopted children raised by single parents turn out as as well as those adopted by couples, if not better in some cases. Women are more likely to adopt as a single parent than a man, but men do still adopt children, even if it means going it alone.
Reasons for Single Parent Adoption
For some people, the dream of having a family was never realized and that is why single parent adoption has risen in popularity. For others, their spouse may have passed away while the adoption was in process, or they may be recently divorced and still want to have a child, but they do not want to wait until they may or may not marry again.
There is always the case made for LGBTQ people wanting to adopt, as well. And there is also the fact that many people do not want to get married, but if they were to adopt a child together, they would be considered “single” even if they really are not.
There are many reasons for single parent adoption, and as more people are single parents with biological children, more court systems and adoption agencies are seeing that children can and do thrive in single parent households. That is why it is becoming more acceptable to adopt children when you are not married.
Is Single Parent Adoption Legal
Of course, like anyone considering becoming a parent, there are still many things you need to consider when adopting a child, particularly if you will be the child’s only parent. One thing to consider is the legalities behind single parent adoption. Is it legal? The short answer is “yes,” but that is not always the case.
State Laws for Single Parent Adoption
When you consider that there are more than 400,000 children waiting to be adopted, and that over 30,000 children age out of the foster care system each year, before being adopted, you would think that states would be trying to create laws that allow for more single parent adoptions. After all, one parent is better than none, right? Not all states view it that way.
In May 2011, Arizona enacted a new bill saying that children should be adopted by “a married man and woman.” Single people can adopt in Arizona, but there are certain conditions in which they would be considered and many people do not meet these requirements.
In 2010, the Louisiana Senate upheld a ban on unmarried couples being allowed to adopt. Currently, Utah does not allow couples who are not legally married to adopt. Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin prohibit same-sex co-parents from adopting, and Michigan courts have ruled that unmarried couples are not allowed to jointly petition to adopt.
Additionally, some states give married couples priority in adoption and some do not allow same-sex couples or unmarried people to become foster parents, which is particularly hard when you consider that foster parenting is often the first step in adoption.
Country Laws for Single Parent Adoption
If you wish to adopt outside of the country, you may have a harder time if you are LGBTQ, single, or older. Some countries, like China or many African countries, have very strict laws on who can and cannot adopt from them. You will need to avoid adopting in certain countries if you are not married.
There are programs that will help you adopt from other countries, though, and many will work with singles to help them achieve single parent adoption. In some, they like to specify which countries are easiest to adopt from if you are unmarried. For example, singles often have an easier time adopting from Bulgaria, Latvia, and Haiti.
Single Parent Adoption Requirements
Even in states that explicitly allow single parent adoptions, there are exceptions and if you can meet the requirements, you can adopt a child, even if you are unmarried. The qualifications and laws will depend on each state, so it is best to check with each state’s adoption laws to ensure you are legally allowed to adopt as a single parent in your state and that you meet all requirements.
A prospective parent must be 21 years old or older. If you go through an agency, they may require you to be older, and they may have an age limit cut-off, but that is not state law.
A prospective parent needs to be in stable health, both physically and mentally. While some health conditions will not hinder your ability to parent, others will. A physician will be able to help you navigate what you can handle with any health conditions you may have.
A prospective parent must complete an adoption home study, where state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Any prior offenses will be reviewed.
Child Abuse History
If you have been convicted of child abuse, you will most likely not be able to adopt, whether you are a single parent or part of a couple.
Again, depending on the state, single people and same-sex and domestic partners may not be eligible to adopt, but that does not mean it is a definite “no.” Your marital status and history will be considered, though, so be ready to answer it in full.
While there is no specific income requirement to adopt, you do have to prove that you have the resources to properly and safely raise a child. You will also need to provide medical insurance for the child.
You must have a safe, clean, stable, secure home. Some states have specific home space, safety, and standards requirements.
Qualifications for Single Parent Adoption
When you choose to adopt as a single parent, you will need to meet certain requirements and qualifications. The requirements have been discussed, but after you meet those, you still need to qualify and that often means you will need to prove yourself above and beyond what the courts or adoption agencies often want to see from couples who adopts.
For example, you will want to show that you have a strong support system in place if you are considering single parent adoption. This means family, friends, and other caregivers that can not only help out if you are stuck at work, become ill, or need time away, but you may also want to consider who would legally have guardianship of your child in the even of your untimely death. In a two-parent home, if one parent passes away, the child still has another parent. In single parent households, that is not the case, so you will want to have a living will and designate a guardian for your child.
You will also want to list out your job and what benefits and flexibility it offers, as well as plans for your child’s future, like their education and healthcare. Showing that you have considered everything and are ready and willing to face it all on your own will go a long way to helping you qualify as a single parent adopter.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Single Parent Adoption
Aside from the disadvantage of it being harder to adopt if you are single, or not being able to adopt at all in some cases, there may be other disadvantages to single parent adoption you should consider before jumping into it.
Disadvantages of Single Parent Adoption
- Extra Responsibility- you will face all of the parenting alone, meaning this will be your responsibility and you will have no spousal support.
- Money- if you are short on money, you will only have your income to rely on.
- Feeling lonely- single parents have a harder time finding a mate, and many express feelings of loneliness.
- Stigma- it is one thing to have the stigma of a single bio parent, but single parent adoption still comes with a lot of stigma that make it hard for single parents to enjoy their child or children without a ton of judgment.
Advantages of Single Parent Adoption
- Sole decision maker- discipline, religion, food, money- all of this can lead to fights with couples, with or without children. You will not have to deal with any of that as you will be the sole decision maker for your child.
- More attention- you and your child get to spend more time together and not have to worry about divided attention.
- Responsible children- children raised in single family homes tend to be more mature, independent, and responsible.
- Building community- single parents must build a support system outside of a spouse so you get to have a better sense of community, and so does your child.
Benefits of Single Parent Adoption
Some of the benefits of single parent adoption include:
Benefits for The Parent
- You know what to expect with no arguments from another person
- You control the costs
- You choose where and how you want to adopt
- You don’t have to wait until you are married or feel pressured to be married
Benefits for The Child/Children
- Less children in foster care/adoption services
- Children get a loving home
- Children get a solid role model
- Less parental conflict to witness
- They get more attention
- They have a better understanding of rules and expectations
How to Do A Single Parent Adoption
Again, to start a single parent adoption (or any adoption), you should first check your state laws about the adoption process. This will tell you what is accepted, the basic costs, where you can go to apply for adoption, what requirements must be met, and all the steps to take.
Once you are certain you will be able to adopt as a single person in your state, you should hire a lawyer. Most consultations are free and they can give you a more solid idea of what you will be looking at and how much money you can expect to spend.
You will also want to speak with your family and friends to make sure you will have their support. They will need to be character witnesses for you, and you may even need their help in the adoption process so you can show a judge that you have a solid support system.
Schedule a meeting with your HR rep and get your benefits in order, as well as all of your monthly check stubs. This will show that you can provide for a child.
Check your home and make sure it meets state requirements. If it does not, you will need to get it up to code.
Meet with a physician to make sure you are in mental and physical shape to be a parent. You will need to prove this to a court.
All of these things may seem like putting the horse before the cart, but when you go in to file your papers, you will want to make sure you have everything under control. Once you have done this, it is time to think about the cost of single parent adoption.
Single Parent Adoption Cost
Once you spoken with a lawyer, it is time to save money for the adoption. Remember- this is all on you, so you have to be in control of finance.
Working with a private agency averages between $4,000 to $40,000 depending on it you are adopting within the country or outside of it and what other hurdles you may have to overcome. Some agencies have a sliding pay scale based on the parents’ income, but many do not.
If you wish to hire an attorney to help you through this process, you will be looking at around $10,000 for their fees, alone, but they can also help with the paperwork to make sure your adoption is done sooner. For cases in states that are harder on single parent adoption, the fees for an attorney to assist you with navigating the legal system are more than worth it.
If money is an issue, consider adopting from foster care. It is free and allows you to build a bond with your child as you go through the adoption process because they will already be living in your home as you file the papers and pay the fees.
Can I Qualify for Single Parent Foster Care?
In most states, you can qualify to be a foster parent if you are single. Again, some states may limit you if you are LGBTQ, but most will not. You will need to pass a background check, home study, and complete foster parent classes, which are usually free.
Additionally, many states will pay you to be a foster parent. That means that you can get money to put toward adopting your foster child while they are already living with you, if you want to use an attorney to handle the adoption paperwork. If you choose to do it on your own, it is free, and the money you are paid each month while your child is still in foster care can help you prepare for life as a full-time single parent. Once you adopt, the state will no longer send you money.
A bonus of fostering to adopt is that you will have the added benefit of showing the courts that you can take care of the child you want to adopt because you have already been doing just that. That means that if you are a single parent looking to adopt, you will have an advantage going into the adoption process because you can prove that you can be a single parent.
There are some hidden costs of adoption that you should be aware of. For one, if you don’t have adequate housing, you will have to move or spend money to make that meet state requirements.
In some states, you have to pay for your home study. You will have to provide proof of a health evaluation, and some doctors require you pay for the examination and pay to have copies of the report provided to the courts. You could also be required to make a living will, which can cost money.
You should also factor in time off work. First, you will need to take time off for the home study, to meet with an attorney, to meet with a judge, and to do all that is needed to pass the home study. You will also want to consider taking time off to spend with your child, since the transition will be hard for both of you.
Before you start the adoption process, you should seek out the help of a financial adviser who can help you determine exactly what you are looking at as far as costs go and what you can do to save.
Remember- you always have the option of taking out a personal loan or even doing a fundraiser if you cannot afford the upfront costs on your own. There are many programs available to help people adopt.
It is also important to note that older children are not as expensive or as hard to place in homes as infants. If you want to adopt, but have reservations, adopting a child that is 8 years old or older may be a wonderful option for you.
Aside from the things listed above, you may want to consider going to a therapist. Adoption can be a long, hard road, and even if you have no history of depression or mental illness, talking to someone could help keep you focused.
When you complete the process and do become a single parent, you will face hardships like you have never known. Many single parents face depression, anxiety, insomnia, and bouts of loneliness. Having a strong relationship with a mental health professional before you adopt will go a long way to keeping you mentally stable and healthy after you adopt.
For a smoother adoption process, work with an adoption attorney and an adoption agency. This will cost more, but it will make things faster and smoother. Also, work to meet requirements before you file your paperwork so you know the costs and what to expect when you go into the adoption process, limiting surprises and setbacks.
Today, single parent adoption is seen as a wonderful choice for many families, and with the right tools and resources, plus meeting the qualifications and requirements, you can be a single parent through adoption. It is a lifelong commitment that will change your life, and the life of a child who needs a loving home.
What happens if I adopt as a single parent and then get married? Your spouse would have to legally adopt your child, as well, to consider your spouse a legal parent. Your spouse does not have to adopt your child if you want to list them as a “step-parent” on legal forms.
How can I better my odds of getting approved with single parent adoptions? You can hire a lawyer and create a nest egg to show you have financial means. You can also get a large support together to write letters of support. You should always know the laws in your state and county or parish before applying for adoption so you know exactly what to do and what you are up against.
Do I have to disclose my sexuality on adoption forms? No, but if it ever comes up and you lied or withheld it on adoption forms, you could be denied adoption rights and that could mean you cannot appeal the decision at a later time. It is best to be truthful on all forms.
What if I am rejected from adopting because I am single? You can appeal the decision. It is best to do an appeal with an attorney. You can also use another adoption agency, if you feel the one who denied you is biased because you are single.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare