This is a big deal. The Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG), which is part of the Administration for Children’s Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services… just published a fact sheet on adopting as a single parent. And they did it well.
Oftentimes, information on adopting as a single parent can be patronizing. While articles on adopting for couples usually fill up with apologies about the bureaucracies of the process, articles for people adopting as as single parents are full of warnings: “It’s going to be really hard!” “Do you have enough money?!” “What if you die?” “How are you going to figure out childcare?!” None of these concerns are unique to single parenting. In fact, all parents should be figuring this stuff out. To suggest that a single person adopting hasn’t considered the basics is kind of insulting. Perhaps there’s a rash of isolated, impulsive, financially fragile single people who have adopted? I’m not familiar with any.
The new “Adopting As a Single Parent” fact sheet from CWIG is impressive in that it approaches adopting as a single parent on an equal playing field as couples. Here’s their introduction:
“Many single people are choosing to adopt, reflecting national trends toward greater acceptance of nontraditional families. Nationally, approximately one-quarter of children and youth, or about 22 million, are growing up in single parent households.1 In 2011, nearly one-third of adoptions from foster care were completed by unmarried people. This included adoptions by 1,400 single men and more than 13,000 single women.2 Several research studies have shown that adopted children raised by single parents experience outcomes that are as good as, if not better than, those for children adopted by couples.3”
The factsheet does at times mimic the other condescending, head-patting literature out there on adopting as a single parent (i.e. “Who could pick up your child from school, if you were stuck at work or in traffic?”), but they don’t belabor the point. I like that they address the stigma people face when choosing parenting alone. The panic that others instill in me a la “You’re doing it by yourself!?” has been my greatest challenge. Would having a partner make it easier? Of course … or would it? From day one of parenting, I have planned to carry 100% of the workload myself. Quite a few of my friends have fallen into significant crisis during those early months and years of parenting when their partners aren’t helping in the way that they expected. My thought is that the grass is always greener. Also, who’s to say that I’ll be a single parent tomorrow? Or that couples will still be team parenting a year from now?
1 U.S. Census Bureau. (2009). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2007. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/ p60-237.pdf 2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. (2012). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2011 estimates as of July 2012 (No. 19). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/ afcarsreport19.pdf 3 Shireman, J. F. (1995). Adoptions by single parents. In M. B. Sussman & S. Hanson (Eds.), Single parent families: Diversity, myths and realities (pp. 367—388). New York, NY: Routledge.
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