Henry David Thoreau once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
As a little girl, I can remember pretending to have a husband and imagining my dolls were our family. My friends and I talked about boys and our dreams of getting married and having babies. I think we were fairly typical little girls, and that most little girls grow up imagining that they will get married and have children of their own. As a teacher, I have watched many students playing “family” (including a mommy, a daddy, and several children) on the playground or in the classroom. Little girls often play mommy with their baby dolls. Of the two God-created genders, women tend to have a greater capacity to nurture, with many desiring motherhood. Most little girls do not grow up with the dream to be single mothers. This is especially true of single mothers who choose to raise partially grown children to whom they did not give birth.
General consensus would agree that the ideal situation for any child would be to have a loving, two-parent family. Most countries have strict requirements on their adoption laws and marriage restrictions. Some adoption agencies may limit applicants to those who are married. However, I believe that there are also situations where having a single parent, specifically a single mother, can be very beneficial.
Statistics on Single Mother Adoption
This website states that “one-third of all US adoptions happen in single family homes. …According to a 2013 National Survey of Adoptive Parents, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 27 percent of adoptive parents are single men and women! Approximately 22.7 percent are female, 5.5 percent male. Since the 1970’s, across the country the number of single parent placements slowly and steadily continues to increase both in domestic and inter country adoption. International options are on a slight decrease but are still a viable option if you are flexible and patient.
“Most single adoptive parents are female, are most likely to adopt older children than infants [though they ARE able to adopt infants!], and are less likely to have been a foster parent to the adopted child.
“Single parent applicants are self-selective. Most applicants have high levels of emotional maturity and high capacity for frustration, and are independent but linked to a supportive network of relatives.
“As a group, the single parent adopters of U.S. children tended to adopt ‘special needs’ children who were older, minority, and/or handicapped children.”
The need for adoptive parents is very great. Single adoptive parents widen the resource pool to allow children, especially those in U.S. foster care, to be able to be adopted. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, approximately 101,666 children out of the 397,122 children in foster care are eligible for adoption and “more than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year.” When foster children age out they are more likely to experience pregnancy at the age of 21, unemployment, homelessness, and a lack of education.
There is a desperate need for children to have loving homes. Since is the need is so great, and there are not enough willing married families stepping up to the plate, I believe that a loving single parent home is better than no home at all.
Single Mother Adoption Benefits
I also believe that there are many instances where having a home where there is only a single mother can be very necessary and even preferred. Some children have had bad interactions with parents of the opposite gender that has left them with an inability to appropriately interact with a parent figure of that gender. For instance, a young lady might have been inappropriately touched or harmed by a trusted male figure. The possibility of having a single mother could increase her feelings of security, reinstate her trust, and help her move on from the traumatic experience. Consider also a child who has had voluntary yet inappropriate relationships with a person of the opposite gender. She might be less distracted and thrive better in a home with a single mother and no males.
Most adoptive mothers realize and believe that children deserve a home with a mother and a father. I personally know of people whose hearts desire mates, but they also desire children. I know several wonderful Christian women who, through no fault of their own, are single. Yet, the desire to love and nurture a child, and the evidence of profound need in society, has led them to adopt as single parents.
One lady was led to adopt internationally. She firmly believed that children deserve a stable, two-parent home with a mom and a dad; however, she recognized that there are some children who might never have a chance at that dream. She prayed that God would lead her to a child who might never have been adopted into a two-parent home. Not long after that, while on a mission trip in Haiti, God led her to the girl who would eventually become her daughter. The little girl had HIV which she had contracted from her first mother during delivery. Her first mother had already passed away due to the infection, and, because she lived in Haiti, the medical necessities that were required to treat HIV were not available. If this little girl remained in Haiti she would have died. This single woman adopted her, brought her to the United States, and got her the best treatment available. Today that little girl is growing and thriving, and her HIV is virtually undetectable. God has truly blessed this woman and her daughter because she chose to step out in faith and adopt a medically challenged little girl as a single woman.
Another mama was a widow who already had a 6-year-old son. A close friend shared pictures of international children who were listed on her agency’s web page as needing homes. She was divinely drawn to a small boy with the most amazing brown eyes, toothy grin, and spina bifida. He was in an orphanage in his first country and was not thriving due to the lack of medical care that he desperately needed. She tried to turn away from him, but his beautiful eyes beckoned her to come and get him. She surrendered to the call, and she and her 6-year-old son fell head over heels in love with that little boy. From that point on, she never looked back. She faced every hurdle that was placed before her and tenaciously pursued adopting him. She ignored family criticism and chose to cling to the calling God placed on her heart that he was her son. After what seemed like an eternity, she and her first son went to the other country to meet their newest little family member. The big brother doted on the small boy, and the small boy reciprocated the affection. Now, they are a family of three. Mom faithfully advocates for the treatments and therapies that her now thriving son needs. Life is not always easy, especially as a single mom, but she has never regretted her decision to pursue adoption as a single mother. In fact, I think she wonders why she waited so very long. This little boy is the perfect fit for their little family.
There are situations like this all over the United States and around the world. There are children who have special needs or special situations that may limit their chances to be adopted into a two-person home. Some children languish in U.S. foster care or a foreign orphanage and are longing for a family. Statistically, they will age out of the system, be isolated in an overcrowded adult group home, or be evicted into the streets. It is sad and heartbreaking. Thankfully, there are couples and single women who are called to seek out these precious lives and give them a loving forever family.
What to Consider When Adopting as a Single Woman
Adoption is hard no matter who goes through the process. Adopting as a single woman and braving the adoption process alone brings a whole new set of challenges, both during the adoption process, as well as after when the child is in their forever home. Here are a few things that single adoptive parents have said that you should consider if you are interested in adopting as a single woman.
1.) Consider why you want to parent as a single mother. Child welfare states that “it is a good idea for anyone making the decision to parent to explore why you want a child. Experience has shown that if your urge to parent comes primarily from a desire to meet your own needs (e.g., loneliness, disappointment in romantic relationships, unresolved fertility or other losses), parenting will prove more challenging and less satisfying for both you and your child. If, however, your desire to parent arises from a wish to meet a child’s needs and enjoy a relationship with him or her, adoption has a greater chance of a positive outcome.”
2.) Create a close support network. This network can be made up of family, friends, coworkers, other parents, trusted sitters, or neighbors and can offer relief in a variety of ways: meals, respite, emergencies, advice, and shoulders to cry on. Married couples can often trade off to give the other a break. Single parenting does not offer that benefit, but you will still need a break. When creating your support network, it is important to choose people who can be readily available in an emergency or who will take your call in the middle of the night. Child welfare also suggests that “if you consider your own parents to be part of your support system, consider their ages, health, and well-being. Might you find yourself taking on caregiving responsibilities for your own parents before your children are grown? Are your parents young and healthy enough that they can realistically provide backup childcare and support?” It will be very important that you know that you may be a single parent but you are not parenting alone.
3.) Realize that as a single adoptive parent, you typically will only have one source of income. As with anything in life, it is important that you have a “plan B” stashed away in the back of your mind in case of an emergency. It is a good idea to let your employer know of your plans to adopt and make him aware of the time you plan to use for “maternity leave” or Family and Medical Leave Act, for which you will be eligible.
4.) Realize that parenting is not for everyone. Yes, the need is great. Yes, some of the children and their stories will grip your heart and evoke tears of compassion. However, Child welfare states that “it is important to note that there are other options, besides parenting, for making a difference in children’s lives. If you decide single parenting is not right for you, you can still develop a special relationship with a child as an aunt or uncle, neighbor, teacher, group or club leader, respite care provider, court-appointed special advocate (CASA), mentor, or even as a sponsor to a child in another country.”
It is not only possible for a single woman to adopt, but in some cases, it really is preferred. A single mother home is not a lesser choice by any means. It is a choice to deny one’s self, take on a hard situation all alone, step out of one’s comfort zone, and provide a loving home for a child who may never have one otherwise. It is quite a noble calling, actually. Though, those special adoptive moms would tell you that they are not anything special. They love their kids just like any other parent. They set boundaries and guide their children. They do everything in their power to provide for the needs of their children. They do not see themselves as noble. That is part of their charm. I see them as modern day heroines who chose to “change the stars” for a child through love and compassion.
Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are parents to two awesome little boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. When she is not playing referee or engaged in tickle wars, Virginia can be found cleaning, reading, or drinking giant mugs of coffee. Virginia is passionate about advocating for life at all ages/stages and educating about adoption.