As an unmarried, divorced, or widowed woman who wants to build a family, the first question you may ask yourself is this: “Is adopting as a single woman possible”?  The answer is yes absolutely; adopting as a single woman is possible! The process of adopting a child can seem daunting, but with the right information and research, the journey can be just as positive as the completion.  There may be some different circumstances or restrictions for adopting as a single woman, but most prospective adoptive parents, whether married or single, face some types of restrictions along the way. Understanding the facts will make the process easier and less stressful.

What Type of Adoption Is Possible As a Single Woman?

Understanding the various types of adoption and deciding which kind of adoption is right for you as you build your forever family is a critical first step.  Generally, prospective adoptive parents adopt through either private domestic adoption, foster care adoption, or intercountry adoption.  The process is different for each respective form of adoption.  Adopting as a single woman is possible with each; it is just important to understand how the process works.  

Private Domestic Adoption

Is adopting as a single woman possible through private domestic adoption?  Yes!  Private domestic adoption is one of the most common types of adoption in the United States, especially for single women.  Many single women choose this type of adoption if they wish to adopt an infant, if they wish to complete an adoption of a child in the United States, or they wish to have an open adoption.  

Private domestic adoption is when the birth mother or birth parents make an adoption plan for their child.  The birth parents generally choose the prospective adoptive parents and decide the amount of access or communication they wish to have with their birth child.  There are various ways a private domestic adoption can be completed.  

As a single woman who would like to use an adoption agency to help match you with a birth mother, the first step is to research which agencies complete domestic private adoptions for single women.  Most do, but it is important to do your research on what are the best adoption agencies near you

As a single woman, you may also be matched with a child through word of mouth, a family member, or profile searches. Adoption.com is a wonderful resource for posting your profile for birth mothers or birth parents to search.

As a single woman, you may want to post on your own social media accounts that you are looking to build your family through adoption, though it is important to take safety precautions.  The network effects of social media can possibly speed the waiting time on getting a match with a birth mother via word of mouth.  

You can also use the help of an adoption attorney when deciding to pursue a private domestic adoption.  It is important to use some adoption service provider to complete your adoption whether it is through an adoption attorney or adoption agency.  They understand the steps and legalities of adopting in your respective state. They can advise you along the way, provide resources for necessary preadoption education and training, and ensure all of the paperwork is done according to plan.  It is worth the investment.

Eligibility to adopt as a single woman will vary from agency-to-agency, but most state guidelines just have an age minimum, required background check, home study, and income requirements.  It is very likely in private domestic adoptions for the birth parents to choose a single woman with whom to place their child.  Your agency or adoption attorney can help you in communicating why you would be the best mother for their birth child via a parent profile, a book of information shared physically with birth mothers, or through conversations with your agency.  

Once a birth mother or birth parents have identified you as a prospective adoptive mother for their child, you will likely meet in person.  Sometimes the first conversation is via phone and then you will meet in person at your adoption agency or your adoption attorney’s office.  The birth mother or birth parents will then make a decision about placing their child with you.  

Foster Care Adoption 

When asking the question “Is adopting as a single woman possible?” the answer is a resounding yes in cases of foster care adoption.  Over 25 percent of children adopted from foster care are adopted by single parents.  The process is different in adopting from foster care.  First, it is much less expensive than adopting through private domestic adoption or international adoption as a single woman.  Many single women decide to become a foster mother before making the decision to adopt a child from the foster care system in their respective state.  A child you foster may not be eligible for adoption or will never become eligible.  Children who are available for adoption from foster care need to have their birth parents’ parental rights terminated before adoption is possible.  This can be an even longer process.  However, many children are already available for adoption.  In the United States, 440,000 children are currently in the foster care system, and over 123,000 children are available for adoption.  A great resource for seeing children who are currently available for adoption in their respective states can be found on Adoption.com’s photolistings page.

Single women who wish to adopt from foster care may find it the easiest process as an unmarried parent.  The requirements on divorce, age, and income requirements can be less stringent compared to domestic private adoption and intercountry adoption. The age of the child adopted from foster care can range from newborn to 18 years old.  Eligibility guidelines vary in each state, so it is important to review the guidelines in your respective state.  Additionally, adopting from foster care guidelines are similar to private domestic guidelines and vary from state-to-state.

Intercountry Adoption

Is adopting as a single woman possible through intercountry adoption?  The answer is yes, but there are some caveats.  The requirements to adopt vary from country to country.  These guidelines range from income requirements, the number of children in the home, and whether you are single, divorced, and the number of years married to name a few.  There are also countries that are altogether closed to intercountry adoption.  

There are a number of countries that allow single women, specifically, to adopt.  These countries are all party to the Hague Convention and include—as of today—China, Bulgaria, Haiti, India, and Colombia.  Each country varies in terms of requirements, cost, time lines, and children available for adoption.  It is important to speak with your adoption service provider on each of these respective countries as the requirements and time frames can change.  

Intercountry adoption has a cost commitment that is greater than foster care or domestic private adoption.  There are various ways a single woman could help fund an adoption through the adoption tax credit, adoption grants, and fundraisers.    

What Does a Home Study Consist of for a Single Woman Planning to Adopt?

After deciding who you will use to complete your adoption and what type of adoption you wish to pursue, you will need to complete a home study.  A home study can be a month-long process of collecting information and paperwork before a licensed social worker in your state visits your home and conducts interviews with you and whoever else is living in your home.  The home study can be completed by your adoption agency if they have social workers licensed in your state to do so.  However, you may also consider using an additional adoption agency or home study adoption service provider to complete the process in your state.  It is important when you are researching and interviewing your agency to understand if they will be completing your home study or if you need an additional agency or adoption service provider to do so.  

The home study strives to ensure that you are safe, loving, and capable of raising a child through adoption.  The process is not scary, and many single women say they learn a great deal about raising a child and where there may be gaps in their home in terms of safety that can be mitigated before the adoption.  The home study will include information on your health records (and may consist of a physician’s letter or exam), your employment, income, criminal history, mental health history, and interviews and letters from friends, family, your children’s teachers (if you are already a parent), and a background check completed in every state in which you have resided over a period of time.  

You will also need to be fingerprinted and must provide a driving record.  You will also have an interview after your home is assessed for safety.  This interview will ask about your values, your plan for childcare, your child-raising philosophy, your plan for discussing the adoption one day with your child, and a reflection on your own upbringing.  As a single woman, you may also be asked to address how strong, safe male role models will be available to your child.  This may be close family friends, family members, or faith leaders. You will also need to have a plan for medical care for a child that may have special needs.  

Other Factors to Consider As a Single Woman Wanting to Adopt

Once you have completed the home study and are approved to adopt, there are other factors to consider as a single woman wanting to adopt.  This may take some time, but when the call comes, it will be wonderful and also potentially overwhelming.  The next important steps, which likely have already been addressed during the home study, would be what support you need through the next few months as the adoption is completed.  It will also be important to think about what support you will also need after your child is home with you.  

If you are completing an intercountry adoption, who will be traveling with you to bring your child home?  If you are completing a private domestic adoption, who will be there as a support person when the child is born in the hospital?  Additionally, who will drive you to where you will meet your child to bring him or her home?  Remember that the purpose of this person is to support you so you can give all of your time, attention, and focus to your child.  This person is not there for the child, but for you, so think about who you trust and who gives you peace and unconditional support even in the most stressful and emotional situations. 

It is also important for you to think about support for you and the child once you are home.  As you make a plan for eventually returning to work after your adoption leave, will you be using a daycare provider, an au pair, or nanny in the home?  If so, it is important to be thinking about this now as it can take some time to lock down a provider.  

It is also important to think about the people who will play an important role in your child’s life.  This is important if you are single or a married couple adopting.  Who are the male role models you want to have in your child’s life?  Are there godparents, special friends, or other family members who you want close to your child?  Maybe set up monthly dinners or days out so they have time with the child.  This can be done one-on-one to also give you respite.  If you need to travel for work, it is important to know who can stay overnight with your child.  It is also critical to ensure that you have a local system of support to help you if you have a sick child and need medication or supplies in the middle of the night—someone to bring groceries when the child is sick and you can’t leave the house. These are just a few of the other factors to consider when thinking about the support you and your child will need during the adoption process and once you are home. 

Now, though, it is most important to think about who is there to listen and support you during this process.  Do you have a therapist, a trusted friend or family member, a faith leader or a colleague who understands what you are going through on the very exciting days and also the hard days?  Think about who you need to support you so you can be ready physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to build your family through adoption.  Most of all, enjoy the journey; it will be one of the most important of your life!

 

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.