Singled Out: A Bad Rap for Single Adoptive Parents

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A bad rap

In the May 28, 2001 issue of The Weekly Standard magazine, an article about the tragic death of a young adoptee during 'rebirthing' therapy explores the issue of blame. In a small paragraph toward the end of the article, the author's comments about single parent adoption have touched a raw nerve. He writes,

Jeane Newmaker's terrible parental judgment should make us ask whether placing children in single-parent households is generally wise. Two heads being better than one, a simple but big problem with single parenthood is that it doesn't provide for built-in second (parenting) opinions. One parent's mistaking his child's temper for a "problem" requiring treatment may happen from time to time, but it's much less likely that two parents will be thus deluded.

Using this tragic event to question the ability of single parents "generally" to deal with a "problem" is, at best, unjustified and at worst, an alarming throwback to narrow minded misconceptions of the past - and only one of the remarks made that show little or no insight into adoption, behavioral issues, and legal practices. Perhaps the author would care to elaborate on the wisdom of any single person being encouraged to parent (biological and/or adopted children), given the questions he raises. Or is he simply suggesting that we should discriminate against singles who wish to adopt?

Evaluating Single Parents for Adoption

Tougher than most

The adoption homestudy process has, from time to time, been called invasive, intrusive, and downright rude, but its importance is not questioned and, when well done, it includes considerable education. Its purpose is to help prospective parents clarify their reasons for wanting to adopt, and to explore their capabilities, maturity, and emotional readiness. It's a time of preparation with the assistance of a licensed homestudy preparer, and an opportunity to pursue education about parenting in general, and special issues that may be connected with the type of adoption (international, special needs, transcultural, etc.). It is a procedure all adopting families must go through, except in certain instances of in-family, stepparent, and adult adoption.

Responsible agencies and homestudy preparers include education as a core element in the process of parent preparation, and single prospective and current adoptive parents tell us that - over and above what is stressed for two-parent families - their homestudy process included (but was not limited to) probing questions and education about:
  • a support network of family and friends for daily 'crises';
  • participation in one or more local support groups;
  • child care arrangements;
  • role models and influences within the family and community;
  • planning in case of their own health emergencies and/or deaths;
  • respite care;
  • attitudes about members of the opposite gender.
Singles as first choice

It may not be an everyday occurrence, but singles are occasionally preferred over two-parent families, both in private and public agency adoptions.

Private Adoption
Does it surprise us that expectant parents might select a single person as adoptive parent? While this may happen more often in in-family adoptions, it also occurs in adoptions involving unrelated families. Information about the whys and wherefores is only anecdotal, but these placements seem to be based as much on the personal rapport between individuals as on the amount of preparation done to welcome a child and the wide range of workable extended family options (openness). One of the guests on Rosie O'Donnell's adoption show last year was just such a parent - single, and selected by a young woman in a private placement. And speaking of Rosie, we mustn't forget the celebrity factor in single parent adoption, where expectant parents may opt to entrust their child to a well-known single person.

Public Adoption
If a child in the foster care system has experienced trauma related to one gender or the other, a single parent family may be deemed to be the best possible home for the child. In such a case, a single person of the non-threatening gender would not only be given preference, but could be the only prospective parent considered.

Single Adoptive Parents by Choice

Those who choose to adopt as single parents are made aware, early on, of the hurdles they face: the general preference for two-parent families; that they may be at the bottom of the list no matter where or how they hope to adopt; and that, as in two-parent families, children may come to their lives with their own histories, experiences and, frequently, special challenges. Yet the number of single persons hoping to adopt increases daily, the hurdles faced, and the challenges met.

Suggesting that the actions of one parent are indicative of what occurs in other single parent families, and that it might be considered a reason to stop entrusting children to single adoptive parents, does an enormous disservice to children - those who thrive in single parent homes, and those who might in the future.

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