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Single Parent Adoption Summary


Our group (Sammy, Kathryn, Alyssa) decided to track the issue of single parent adoption because we knew that discrepancies existed in this area but we were unsure of the specifics. We already knew that it is "easier" for a couple to adopt a child than it is for a single. However before we began tracking the issue, we did not know the laws behind single parent adoption, how race and gender play into the issue, or the differences between domestic vs. international adoption or infant adoption vs. foster adoption.

As far as the laws behind single parent adoption go, it is completely legal in every state of the United States for a single parent to adopt a child of any age domestically. This was not always the case however, due to discrimination of single parent families. In 1958 the Child Welfare League of America put out a release stating that adoptive families must be comprised of a mother and a father. It wasn't until 1965 that the first group, the Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions, fervently recruited single parents nationwide.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions was also the first organization to seek out single African-American parents, so that they could match African-American children with parents of the same race. Now, when the state places children they tend to place couples with same-race children. Also, according to Adoption Choices of Oklahoma, most adoptions cost between $28,000 and $34,000, while African-American adoptions range from $25,000 to $30,000, and the average waiting time for a potential adoptive parent to be matched with a birth mother is six months, but the wait is much shorter for parents willing to adopt African-Americans. When looking at local adoption agencies, white, middle-class, heterosexual men and women dominate the photos, giving the impression that these agencies mainly cater to this one group of people.

When the state is responsible for placing children, they tend to give single parents "hard to place" children, such as children with disabilities, or who are older, etc. Single parents are responsible for 25% of all special needs adoptions. Often, single parents are recommended to foster homes, as they will have a better chance at being placed with a child in this fashion, rather than being picked by a birthmother to adopt an infant.

Single parent adopters are an untapped resource that should be utilized to place children into loving homes. Single parent adoptions are just as successful as couple adoptions, often because single adoptive parents often seek out resources and build support systems more vigorously than couples do. These resources include finances, which single adoptive parents are able to bring and make ends meet for their family. No significant differences in terms of educational development of the children have been noted between single and two parent adoptive families. Also, single adoptive parents have reported less use of mental health services than two parent adoptive parents.

Overall, the main issue seen in the practices of adoption is how society views different family units, as well as how society places different values on different children (i.e. foster children, African-American children, etc.)

Your Choice Entry: Single Father Adoption


As I began to track the issue of single parent adoption, I soon found that while it is legal in every state of this country for a single parent to adopt a child, internationally or domestically, it is ultimately up to the adoption agency to decide who qualifies to even be considered to adopt from their agency. I found several questions posted on forum communities by single males who want to adopt a child but have been turned away from adoption agencies from the start. I also came to discover that many adoption agencies would consider single fathers for foster programs that can eventually turn into adoption, or the adoption of older children but not infants or even toddlers.
I decided to do a bit of digging myself. I found a website with a list of domestic adoption agencies and randomly selected some agencies and requested additional information on their contact form. I wrote to several adoption agenceis:
Hi, my name is Alyssa Smith. I am looking into single parent adoptions and I
am wondering if your agency participates in single parent adoptions,
particularly single father adoption. If so I would also like to know if there
are any regulations on this type of adoption, such as the age of the child,
domestic vs. international adoptions, or if a single must begin the adoption
process through a foster program.
Thank You
Within a few hours of sending this message to numerous adoption agencies I received several interesting replies:

"Hello Alyssa-
My name is Brenda Compton and I am the Senior Adoption Consultant for International Family Services. I was told of your interest in adoption and I would be thrilled to email you a great deal of information about our program options and to answer any questions you might have. Before I do so though, I did need to verify that you were asking about you adopting as a single mother, correct? In your request you asked if we can work with single men's adoptions, but unfortunately we do not have any programs in place at this time that are open to this. If you are interested for yourself, as a single woman, please let me know and I will send information on to you about programs you would qualify for. And if you are asking for a single male friend or relative, while IFS could not help him with an adoption, I would be happy to email you some other options he might want to check into, in case any of them would work for him."

"hello Alyssa. I'm sorry that single fathers seem to be the ONE segment of
the population who cannot adopt internationally. no country will allow it
as far as I know. Sorry."

"Love Basket does not accept singles at this time. In the past we have
worked with single women however we found that the wait time was very
long and they were incurring more fees as they updated paperwork
throughout the process. I'm sorry that we can not be of further
assistance to you but do wish you well in your search for an agency."

"Our agency 's adoption services are currently focused upon infant adoptions.
In such cases, the surrendering birthparent is coming to us seeking a two
parent home for her child.
As a single parent, your best opportunity may be in adopting a child through
the foster care system. In doing so, I would recommend you check with the TN
Dept. of Children's Services in your area."

There were also adoption agencies that sent auto-responses, so they detailed their process to begin an adoption but did not specifically answer my questions. There were also a response that explained what their company does is interview anyone looking to adopt and place them with an adoption agency which fits their specific needs, but does not participate in the adoptions themselves. I thought a process like this could be very useful under the current adoption system in which agencies can choose right off the bat who they are willing to work with. However, I do see flaws in the current system that should be looked into.
When it is legal for a single parent to adopt a child, do you think it is ethical for an adoption agency to refuse its services with no further investigation as to how fit to parent this individual may be? What if a different type of company was refusing its services to a particular group of people, like a store clerk who will not sell certain items to certain races of people? Why is it unacceptable to companies to refuse service to groups of people, but when it comes to adoption single males are often not even given the opportunity to begin the adoption process with a home evaluation? Is this practice in the best interest of the children being given up for adoption as well as the birth parents, or is it discrimination?

Sammy, Kathryn, Alyssa

Victor K. Groze and James A. Rosenthal's Single Parents and Their Adoptive Children: A Psychosocial Analysis is a study that compared adoptions completed by single versus two parents of special needs children. Children with special needs, accoring to Groze and Rosenthal, are those "older children, physically handicapped children, children of mixed or minority ethnicity, children who are members of a sibling group, and children with emotional or behavioral problems" (67).

The authors use a table to lay out for the reader the interesting findings in regard to the demographic of adopted children for single and two-parent homes. Something interesting to note when analyzing the demographics is that single parents were more likely to have adopted older children, children with special needs, and girls (70). The authors note, additionally, that "The finding that single parents more often adopt girls contrasts with previous reports...[It] should be considered in the context that most single parents (84%) are women and that single parents tend to adopt children of the same sex as themselves" (70). The table additionally shows that single parent families are more likely than two parent families to be comprised of children of minority races. What does this say about two parent families that they are less willing than single parents to adopt children of a minority race? What message does this send to society?

In terms of the children's emotional and behavioral functions, Groze and Rosenthal rated the children by utilizing the 113 behavior problems in the Child Behavior Checklist (CBC). They compared children who were utilizing mental health services of some kind "clinical group," and children who were not receiving any mental health treatment "nonclinical" (71). In both the single and two parent families, the percentage of adopted children in the clinical range exceeded the corresponding percentage of the nonclinical sample (72). The authors also noted that "differences between the special needs and sample and the nonclinical sample were modest among 4 to 5 year old children, but more pronounced among the 6-11 and 12-16 age groups" (72). It makes sense that the behavioral problems would be more prevalent in children who were older when they were adopted, as the children likely experienced less stability in their daily lives.

The study also examined the educational functioning of the children. An interesting finding, note the authors, is that "no significant differences between single-parent and two-parent families were found regarding attendance, grades, or enjoyment of school. Most children performed well in school and, according to parents' reports, enjoyed school" (73). In particular, this finding supports the idea that single parents are just as suited as two parents to assist in the intellectual development of their children.

The last area of functioning that the study covered was ecological, where the adoptive family was examined based on their use of mental health services. The authors state, "statistically significant differences in the number of in-person meetings with the social workers between one and two parent families were noted" (72). Interestingly, single parents reported fewer visits after being placed with their child than did two parent families. If both the educational data and the ecological data suggest that single parents are just as qualified (if not more) than two parent families to raise a special needs child, why, then, do some assert that singles are unfit to adopt a child?

Groze and Rosenthal discuss the possible reasons as to why single parents experienced fewer emotional and behavioral problems than did two-parent homes. "Perhaps the intensity of relating to two adults on an intimate basis results in more difficulties after placement than does having to relate to one adult caretaker" (74). Furthermore, the study also revealed that in regard to adoption smoothness, "although differences were noted in the child's emotional and behavioral functioning and in the social and ecological functioning of one and two parent families, no differences were found in their evaluation of adoption smoothness" (75). This further suggests that single parents are just as suited as two parent families to adopt a special needs child.

In conclusion, Groze and Rosenthal assert that new adoption policies, with the goal of securing permanent homes for children, should target such nontraditional candidates as single parents for adoption. Furthermore, the authors state "Singles make up a significant portion of the population and a number of single people are raising children on their own. Single adoptive parents are not only a feasible but an untapped resource to provide homes for children with special needs" (76).

Groze, V. K. "Single parents and their adopted children: A psychosocial analysis." Families in Society 72.2 (1991):130.

Tracking- Single Parent Adoption

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Tracking the Issue
Single Parent Adoption
Local Impact

Single parent adoption is as much a local issue as it is a national or global issue. Adoption Minnesota is a Minneapolis-based adoption agency which touts being a welcoming agency. "There are no rules requiring you to be of a certain age, religion or race, nor do we eliminate adoptive parents based on weight, marital status, number of children already in your home or physical disability," the web site says. Though there are no rules, it is pretty clear that the site is aimed at white, middle-class folks, whether it is the birth mother or the prospective parents. This is saddening because the people willing to adopt- whether single or as a couple- may not fit this cookie-cutter image. What is more, is that the entirety of the staff appears white and middle-class. Private adoption agencies, such as this one, have the luxury of tailoring their services to a particular group of people. This perpetuates traditional conceptions of what the ideal family is, regardless of contemporary standards or changes. This creates one more hurdle for single parents, hopeful parents of color or disability- the hurdle to overcome preference. Minneapolis is a wonderfully diverse metropolitan area, and the impact that an adoption agency that caters to white, middle-class can deter potential parents from adopting. Not to say that there are not avenues- such as state agencies- to adopt as a single parent. However, the process is long, emotional and expensive. According to the Department of Human Services, adoptive parents may pay for fees for agency serves, certain birth parent expenses, legal fees and court costs related to adoption, fees to U.S. citizenship and immigration services, fees to people or agencies related to international adoption, and travel costs. Depending on the type of adoption a parent is trying to arrange, the parent(s) may be obligated to pay for medical costs for the birth mother as well. The expense of child rearing and the adoption process can be costly, which is a drawback of adopting as a single parent. However, as the "Single Parent Adoptive Homes" study (in a related post for Tracking the Issue) explains, the parent usually finds a way to work things out where finances are not a grave concern. After searching for more adoption agencies and delving further into the topic, many testimonies read that the mother or father, or both as a couple, find a way to work finances out. Even with half or less than half the income of a couple, single parents who adopt manage.

When reading about adoption and the rights of the birth mother, it was apparent that the father plays a limited role. I was curious to know what rights he has and so I explored the Minnesota Father's Adoption Registry. Based in St. Paul, the Minnesota Father's Adoption Registry is a valuable resource for paternal fathers whose child is or may be involved in adoption proceedings. The registry is free and is primarily utilized by courts so they can find the father to participate in adoption proceedings. A father can register as a putative father (recognized father) within 30 days of the child's birth. This is important to do if the father thinks he may want to contest adoption. When discussing single parent adoption, so much attention is placed primarily on the mother or father about to receive the child, secondly the birth mother giving up the child, and rarely is a substantial amount of attention paid to the birth father. In any adoption, single parent or otherwise, considerations should be made for all parties involved. It is acknowledged that in some occurrences the mother does not wish for the father to be involved, and safeguards are established within the state to prevent the father from finding information about the mother when he establishes paternity.

Understanding not only the values placed on the families in the adoption process but the legal issues as well is imperative to taking a critical look at the roles each member of the situation plays.

Tracking- Single Parent Adoption

Single Parent Adoption
Scholarly Source

Joan Shireman's "Single Parent Adoptive Homes" is a longitudinal study of single parent adoptions beginning in 1970 and followed for the course of approximately 14 years. The results of the study found that single parent adoptions can be just as successful as two parent adoptions. What is most interesting about the study is not the outcome, but what the author notes throughout the 14-page article.

She begins by explaining a history of ambivalence toward single parent adoption- fears that the children will turn out dysfunctional as a result of a lack of resources and role models had previously stifled single parent adoption. "Professional adoption workers were concerned about the child's intra-psychic development in a one parent household, and concerned that a single parent would not have the resources and support to raise a child," (p. 23). This soon changed though, as the growing number of children in need of homes led agencies to utilize requests for children from single men and women. "Pressure from the community, both agency boards and single parents who wished to adopt, and pressure from numbers of children needing adoptive homes, overcame this professional reluctance," (p. 23).

When selecting children to be placed in the home, what preference is given to single applicants? "The married applicant, of an age to bear children and with the resources to raise a child, is accorded most favorable status in adoption and is most likely to receive a same-race, healthy, infant. More marginal applicants, such as single parents, are unable to obtain these infants and receive children who are more difficult to place- older children, children with physical and emotional handicaps, children of color. Thus the most difficult children are placed with those with the fewest resources to care for them," (p. 26). This places a great emphasis on what is considered ideal, and thus, what is constructs the ideal family. Could it be that the adoption agencies did not think that single parents who were adopting could ever be an ideal family and that is why they were given "hard-to-place" children? What does this say about worth- that children who are older, perhaps disabled, perhaps of color, are not as worthwhile as healthy, white babies? The complexities of adoption are furthered when children are ranked in the adoption process and given last pick to applicants who are not married. This displays a contemporary standard for the ideal family structure and family value- the "best" families have a mother and father (since GLBT adoptions were generally not granted at the time of this study), and a same-race infant.

Concerns about race and health were not the only factors affecting the adoption process for single parents. "Early concerns about single parent adoptions focused on expected difficulties in the development of appropriate gender identity," (p. 29). Gender identity is a concern in single parent adoption because the lack of a parent of the opposite sex means that the child potentially misses witnessing a second gender role. This concern is born out of a traditional perception of a family structure consisting of two parents teaches a child its gender role. We have discussed in class how binary gender roles can be problematic and restrict a child's freedom of expression. For this study, though, single parent adoption was compared to that of two parent households with the notion that two parent households are "normal." This concern over gender and direction turned out not to be substantive enough to differentiate between single and two parent households. "At age 14, gender identity was measure with a standardized scale; responses were similar to the distribution in same-race, two parent adoptive homes. Thus, the evidence we have suggests that up to early adolescence, children are having the opportunity develop appropriate gender identity," (p. 30). (Personal curiosity: What is the "appropriate gender identity?" And what is this standardized scale gender identity is measured with? Can it even be measured?)

Finally, the result of the study concluded that single parent adoptions are just as successful as two parent adopts. "There has been little writing or inquiry from the perspective of the strengths of the single parent adoptive home. Rather, under the assumption that two parent homes were best, single parent homes have been examined to discover the extent to which they look like more traditional families," (p. 30). (Another personal curiosity: What does the "traditional family" look like?) A particular strength for single parent homes is something that perhaps cannot found in two parent households. "The simplicity of relationships in a single parent home has been noted as a potential strength for some children who come from complicated and disrupted backgrounds," (p. 31).

Overall, the research found that, "single parent adoptions do look, in the long run, a lot like two parent adoptions," (p. 33).

Shireman, Joan F. (1996). "Single Parent Adoptive Homes." Children and Youth Services Review, 18(1/2), 23-26. Accessed April 29, 2010 at

Single Parent Adoption--History

Since the mid-nineteenth century, when the first adoption laws were passed, singles have legally been allowed to adopt. However, single individuals looking to adopt have faced a substantial amount of adversity in order to be seen as positive parents and candidates for adoption.

During the 1900's, families began to take a different shape. Divorce and children out of wedlock became more common; however, this did little to affect the opinion on single parent adoption. Some state welfare agencies even went so far as to enact regulations that made it "difficult or impossible for agencies to place children in the care of single individuals" ("Adoption History Project" 1). Single parent adoption was so rare that until the 1960's, there was no way of knowing the amount of adoptions that were occurring. Though it happened, experts believe the number was very small. In fact, single parents were so discriminated against that in 1958, the Child Welfare League of America put out a release stating that adoptive families must be comprised of both a mother and a father ("Adoption History Project" 1).

Efforts to recruit single parents for adoption picked up in the 1960's, in part due to advocates of special needs children up for adoption ("Adoption History Project" 1). The argument for single parent adoption was that children, despite any mental, physical, or emotional handicaps, should have the right to grow up in a loving, caring home. According to, single parents now account for around 25% of all adoptions of children with disabilities.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Adoptions was the first group nationwide to fervently recruit single parents, beginning in 1965. They were also the first organization to seek out single African-American parents, so that they could match African-American children with parents of the same race. Over the course of a few years, 39 single mothers were placed with children, and only one father. Why did adoption agencies assume that mothers would make better single parents than fathers?

Eventually, in 1968, the Child Welfare League conceded that single parent adoptions were permissible when "exceptional circumstances" were in place that would prohibit the child to be adopted to any other family. Why, if a parent is willing to provide a loving home for a child, would an agency deem the adult to be unqualified, simply because of the fact that the candidate is without a partner?

Today, single parent adoptions are more prevalent (about 1/3 of the total adoptions, according to the Adoption History Project). However, the dim hierarchy of preferences still exists within the system, and single parents are largely adoptive when the child has no other choice. The History Project states concisely and dismally, "They are as unwanted as the children they take in." Nevertheless, some point to the potential benefits of single parent adoption, such in the case of a child who may need a more focused, close relationship, or, in the case of single father adoption, where the child needs a strong male figure who is also loving.


Adoption History: Single Parent Adoptions." University of Oregon. 11 July 2007. Web. 30

Apr. 2010. .

"Single Parent Adoption - Adoption Information. General Info on Adopting a Child."

Adoption Information - Services, Centers, Home Study, Situations, Open

Adoptions, Attorneys. 22 Jan. 2008. Web. 30 Apr. 2010.


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