Single-parent Adoption: What You Should Know

Families today come in all shapes and sizes.  Whether you’re single by choice or by circumstance, you may have thought of expanding yours to include a child. In 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families, 117,380 children in the foster care system were eligible for adoption, but less than half found homes. 

Despite popular misconceptions about single parents, research shows that single-parent adoptees thrive as much as, if not more so than, kids adopted into more traditional families.  This may be because singles are more likely to bond with children prior to adoption, have undivided attention and resources for their kids, or provide an environment that is free of marital and familial stress.  Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that single adopters can greatly enrich the lives of needy children. 

If you’re interested in adopting, there are two main paths to finding a child—independent adoption or agency adoption. Independent adopters are the hopeful parents you see running newspaper ads for young moms-to-be a la the movie Juno.  These adoptions are direct agreements between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, facilitated by attorneys.  When an agency arranges an adoption, it becomes a middleman, with all the benefits and drawbacks that implies.  Agencies can be public or private, domestic or international.  Adoptive parents whose children were once in foster care or who hail from abroad likely used an agency.  Let's explore these different routes to adoption with an emphasis on the best strategies for prospective single parents.

Independent Adoption

Singles may discover that independent adoption is a smoother process because they don’t have to meet stringent agency standards, which may favor married couples.  This kind of adoption may also be financially advantageous, costing about $10,000-15,000 to cover the search for a baby, legal and medical bills, and other potential expenses for the expectant mother.  This fee can be offset by a federal tax credit of up to $11,650 for any single who earns less than $214,730 a year.  Furthermore, independent adoptions often advance more rapidly than agency adoptions.  Since the process usually begins when the birth mother is pregnant, the adoptive parent may have an infant in as little as four or five months.  Not only is the wait time brief, but, more importantly, the adoptive parent can raise the baby from birth, a tremendous opportunity less frequently available through agency adoptions.      

The downside of independent adoption, on the other hand, has been the subject of myriad TV movies.  Depending on state law, for up to 30 days after the baby is born, the biological parents can reclaim their child, a devastating possibility for the adoptive parent who has already decorated a nursery, stacked up on bottles and diapers, and fallen in love with the new bundle of joy.  To escape this hazard, some hopeful single parents look to agencies. 

Unfortunately, not much statistical information has been collected about independent adoption, so there is no data regarding how many boys and girls are independently matched with single adults.  

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