Importance of the Single Parenting Problem

Category: Culture
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Single parents are often turned down or used as a last resort when adopting a child. Many professionals as well as the general public think it is in the best interest of the child to grow up with a mother and father. This ideal is keeping children in foster care longer than necessary. Individuals have to go through greater obstacles to adopt a child including independent or international adoptions. Even these methods of adoption are not guaranteed. The current policies do not need to be changed, but instead expanded. They need to include a broader definition of family and who can adopt. Standards of family must be upheld, but discrimination must be diminished.

A policy that protects single parents through the adoption process would decrease the number of children in foster care and increase the number of adoptions. All applicants must meet the requirements and standards but cannot be denied based on marital status. Discrimination within agencies against single parents is common and keeping children from finding permeant homes.

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Context and Importance of the Problem

Single people who wish to adopt a child go through greater challenges and obstacles than married couples wanting to adopt. It is currently, and always has been, legal for a single person to adopt a child. However, there is much bias and discrimination within adoption agencies, professionals, and the general public on single parents. Agencies favor married couples and prioritize their adoption process. Individuals going through the adoption process may be turned down by agencies or not as seriously considered. It can take much longer for an individual to adopt or may not happen at all.

Single parent families tend to have less money than two parent households. This could be due to having a single income rather than two. Another factor that may contribute is that the majority of single parents are women, and women tend to make less money than men (Groze, 1991). This causes concern about if the child’s needs can be met with a lower income. There are also thoughts of how being raised in the absence of a mother or father will impact the development of the child. A common belief in the 1950’s and 1960’s was that children were given up for adoption when the father was absent from the child’s life. A single woman wanting to adopt was thought to be pointless because it was simply “taking a child from one single woman and giving him to another” (Owen, 1994, p. 151).

There have been studies done on single parent adoptions. The results of the studies show that there are no significant differences in the development of children with adoptive single parents versus married couples. There were no differences in the number of disruptions, which is the removal of a child from the home. Single parents proved to be just as nurturing and supportive as married couples. In fact, single parent adoptions were found to have more positive effects on children in certain areas than married couples. Single parents had higher family support and developed healthy relationships with their children. More single parents were involved in their child’s school activates than couples. Some children benefit from the sole attention a single parent can give, such as children who have been through trauma (Groze, 1991).

There are regulations that make it much more difficult or even prevent individuals from adopting. In 1958, the Child Welfare League of America released a statement that ideal adoptive families consist of a mother and father. In 1968, the statement was updated to include that single parents may adopt under certain circumstances which would otherwise result in the child not being adopted (Herman, 2012). This indicated that single parents may be used as a last resort for children who are less likely to find homes. According to the CCCS, these children consist of older children, children with physical or emotional issues, and children of color (Shireman, 1995).

A movement in the 1960’s began that encouraged single parent adoptions of special needs children. These children were not being adopted and it was decided that “one parent is better than none” (Herman, 2012, p.2). Single parents were considered to be beneficial to these children because the child is their sole focus. Some children with serious trauma benefit from a close relationship with one adult. One-fourth of children with special needs looking for homes are adopted by single parents. One-third of older children in foster care are adopted by single parents. Very few single parents adopt healthy infants (Herman, 2012). It is extremely difficult for an individual to adopt a healthy baby with no handicaps in the United States.

The risk and resilience perspective can help explain this issue. There are currently 422,000 children in foster care (Fostering Success Foundation, 2018). Children enter foster care already at risk due to the maltreatment they received from their biological parents. They have more problems with physical and mental health, developmental stages, and attachment issues (“Developmental Issues”, 2000). Their environment has a huge impact on how they will develop and grow. Being placed in a permanent home with an adult that supports them is a protective factor. A child being adopted can change their life and they can come out resilient. All adults who are qualified should be able to adopt regardless of their marital status. Using single people only as a last resort or not at all is denying children of a permanent home.

Critique of Policy Options

There are three main ways to adopt a child in the United States; foster care adoption, private domestic adoption, and international adoption (“Adoptions USA”, 2009). Foster care adoption can take place after a child has been in foster care for a certain amount of time and no other plans have been arranged. A child enters foster care due to maltreatment or abandonment. They are put into custody of a child welfare agency who now determines if they will be reunited with their parents or will be adopted. According to the Adoption and Safe Families Act written in 1997, if a child has been in foster care for fifteen out of the past twenty-two months, parental rights are terminated, with a few exceptions (“Adoption Laws”, n.d.). Once parental rights are terminated, the child is up for adoption. Throughout these various processes, children are assigned a court appointed special advocate. This could be social worker or a community volunteer. They appear in court and advocate on behalf of the child (“Adoption Laws”, n.d.). Foster care adoption is the easiest and fastest way to adopt. Many children in foster care are awaiting adoptions and social workers are eager to find them homes. Older children and children with handicaps in foster care are more easily accessible for single parents. However, many of these children have been through traumatic experiences and may have behavioral or emotional issues that the parent is not equip to handle.

Private domestic adoption is done when biological parents voluntarily place their child up for adoption. These children were not previously in foster care or the custody of the state. They are transferred from the biological parents directly to the adoptive family through an agency or independently. An agency works with both the birth family and the adoptive family until the adoption is finalized. An independent adoption is done by both families coming to an agreement and then using attorneys (“Adoptions USA”, 2009). Independent adoptions take place without a licensed child welfare agency. This method of adoption does not necessarily require an agency, which is beneficial to single parents as agencies prefer married couples. However, agencies provide useful information and support that may not be received through this type of adoption. Without the help of professionals there are likely to be mistakes. A child may not receive the best fit home which could result in negative consequences for the child and adoptive parents. Legal matters could be overlooked resulting in the child being taken away from the home after the process has taken place (Shireman, 1995). Child welfare agencies provide many services to help with the smooth transition of bringing a child into their new home. Parents that use independent adoptions do not receive many of these services.

International adoption is adopting from a foreign country outside of the United States. When adopting internationally, adoptive families must follow the policies of the country from which they are adopting. After they are accepted, the child must become a citizen of the United States. In 2008, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption decided to place policies on seventy-five countries. They ultimately decide which children can be adopted and immigrated. The purpose of the Hague Convention is to make sure that children adopted for the right reasons, by the right people. For countries that are not covered by the Hague Convention, adoptions must follow the United States policies (“Adoptions USA”, 2009). International adoption is a way for single parents to adopt a healthy baby with no handicaps, as United States agencies encourage single parents to adopt children with special needs. However, this may be difficult as some countries will not accept applications from single women and many countries do not believe that men can be nurturers. Adoptions from foreign countries must follow the polices of that country and some applicants may be denied. The process of adopting from a foreign country is very expensive as well as riskier.

Single parents who chose adoption from foster care are commonly given older children or children with special needs. This may deter some individuals from adopting because they may not have the resources, time, or education to raise these children. It is important for these children to adopted, so it should be an option explored for all applicants, not specifically single parents. There should be more options for single parents such as infants or children without handicaps.

Independent adoptions may be a great fit for some parents as well as the child. The adoption process is complicated and difficult for a family to navigate on their own. An organization that provides legal and welfare advice to families who choose this route would be very helpful. Families should be able to come to agencies with questions, even if they do not end up adopting from that agency.

Policy Recommendations

The adoption policies that are currently in place focus on the best interest of the child. Foster care and adoption policies are thorough and ensure that the child is safe at all times. This means that child welfare agencies are strict with who can adopt and who cannot. The adoption process should remain thorough, challenging, and strict. It is incredibly important to find the perfect family for that particular child. However, some of the criteria that is being looked at is unnecessary and in turn keeps children from finding permanent homes.
I recommend to a policy that will protect individuals from being turned away by agencies. This policy will not allow discrimination or judgement based on marital status. Although there are no policies restricting single parent adoption, there are also no policies supporting single parent adoption. Many agencies openly express their preference for married couples or discretely push back single parent applications. A policy that makes discrimination of single parent adoption illegal would open up many loving homes for children. This policy will decrease the number of children in foster care and increase the number of adoptions.

All applicants must go through the same procedures they do now such as home studies, meetings with social workers, and finalization. If any applicants do not meet the requirements or standards they will not be considered for adoption. The applicants who are fit for adoption will continue with the process, even if they are single. Single people make up a percent of the population and some of them wish to have children, but do not wish for a partner. Others may have trouble finding a partner but know that they are capable of raising child on their own. Regardless of the reason, any individual who is willing to nurture and love a child should be able to.

Policy Implementation

It is sometimes hard to prove that there is discrimination in the workplace. A team will be formed and put in charge of enforcing this policy. Social workers, clients, or anyone involved in the process will be able to file a report of suspected discrimination. Each case will be looked at by the team and they will determine if further action is needed. For example, if an individual goes to an agency looking to adopt and is turned down they may file a report. The team will examine as to whether or not they meet all of the requirements in order to be considered for adoption. If they are up to standard an investigation may be prompted to find out if they were denied simply because they are a single person. If it is found that this is the case, the agent who denied them will be reprimanded.

The team could consist of a few social workers or other workers within the agency. Those who are chosen or volunteer to be on the team must be trained. Since they are already members of the agency they will be familiar with the policies and requirements of adoption. They will need to be trained, but they will already have knowledge of the majority of this process. An incentive to join the team could be a promotion or pay raise. Public awareness is also important for this issue. Not everyone is aware that single people are eligible to adopt and that there is prejudice against them. Raising awareness will encourage more individuals to adopt.

The definition of family is changing. Nuclear families are decreasing as many types of families form. Single parents are extremely common now. It is socially acceptable for single parents to raise their birth children, but not to raise adopted children. As families change, policies need to change with them. Adoption policies need to be updated to fit the types of families America has now.

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Importance of the Single Parenting Problem. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from