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Creating a Family by Single Parent Adoption

Creating a Family by Single Parent Adoption

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the latest installment of The Single Life, a monthly column written specifically for singles.

Some years ago I attended a play called The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged). At one point audience participation was required; my section was assigned the part Ophelia. Our orders were to shout on cue, “Cut the cr**, Hamlet. My biological clock is ticking and I want babies NOW!”

I guess you had to be there. The point is, the desire to have a child can be almost overwhelming. But if you’re single and don’t feel ‘making babies’ outside of marriage is appropriate behavior, how do you deal with the longing to be a parent? These days, more and more singles are smacking the alarm button on their biological clocks by creating families through adoption.

Adoption—even adoption by a single parent—is nothing new.Can you name an example from the Bible? There’s at least one! (Answer found at the end of this article, but no fair reading ahead.)

Why would someone choose to become a single parent? Probably for the same reasons a couple chooses to adopt: they believe they have what it takes to be a good parent and want to give a child a loving home. As one single mom put it, “I couldn't give up this desire to be a mother. Not necessarily to give birth to children, but to be a mother to a child who needed one . . . so I decided to adopt.”

There was a time when adoption by singles just “wasn’t done” but those days are over. Some sources estimate that more than 50 percent of all children will be in a single parent family at some point in their lives, so single parenting as a whole is much more commonplace than it used to be. These days, per the Web site “approximately 25 percent of the adoptions of children with special needs are by single men and women, and it is estimated that about 5 percent of all other adoptions are by single people.” According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 33 percent of children adopted from foster care are adopted by a single parent (U.S. DHHS, 2000). So while the process may not be easy, it is definitely possible.

The Decision

Taking on responsibility for another human being is a big decision and not one to be made lightly. There are so many things to consider: Can I afford to support a family? Private or public adoption? What will I do about daycare? What’s my real motivation for wanting a child? How will I handle emergencies? Am I set on a local child or would an international adoption be better? What happens if I get sick? Do I have enough of a support system in place? And so on . . .

Of course, the biggest, most important question of all is this one: Is this what God wants me to do? (And its corollary, “Is this what God wants me to do now?”)

Single parents are often encouraged to choose “less desirable” children, i.e. those with special needs, older kids, or sibling groups. Adoption Resources of Wisconsin notes “It’s ironic how the most needy children are paired with singles, when these more difficult kids could benefit from having two (or more!) parents to meet their needs.” As with any major decision, it’s wise to count the cost—emotional, physical, and financial—up front. But before you pass on one of these “special” kids, consider what a huge difference you can make in that child’s life. (Not to mention what a difference they’ll make in yours!) As many a parent will tell you, the blessings far outweigh the burdens.

Once you get all (or most) of that sorted out, there are the friends and family to consider. Hopefully they’ll be supportive, but they may not all immediately jump on board with your decision, especially at first. Any naysayers probably have your best interest at heart, so give them time and information as needed. Most of them will come around, especially when they meet your new little sweetheart and see the effect parenthood has on you.

The Process

Adoption is often a complex, arduous process and not one that can be neatly shoehorned into a single article. When you think about it, that’s a good thing; taking custody of a child should require more oversight than, say, rescuing a pet from the local animal shelter. Laws and processes vary by state, by agency, and by type of adoption (public or private, foreign or domestic). There will be forms to fill out, questions to answer, steps to follow, fees to pay, sometimes less-than-helpful professionals to deal with, and plenty of waiting. Keep your eyes on the prize and hang in there. All that waiting will give you plenty of opportunities for prayer—but then, so does parenting.

Even Singles Don’t Have to Go It Alone

There is good news: you don’t have to go through the process alone. There are books, articles, organizations, and support groups available, many of them specifically geared to the single parent. If you make contact with an adoptive parent group before beginning the process, they can help you with where to go and what to do. Some adoption agencies are more likely than others to place a child with a single parent. Recommendations from those who have successfully walked that road will make your own path to parenthood a smoother one.

Adoption in the Bible

Is there a biblical precedent for single parent adoption? Why yes, actually, there is . . . remember Mordecai? He was the (apparently) single guy whose adopted daughter grew up to become queen and save her people from extinction. You’ll find their story in the book of Esther 2. Moses was also adopted­—pulled from the river by Pharaoh’s sister, you may recall—but it’s not clear if she was married or single at the time.

But the most personal adoption story in the Bible is our own adoption by God. “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5, The Message). So if you do adopt a child, you might think of it as following in your heavenly Father’s footsteps.

Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at