Adopting Children as a Single Woman

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The past few decades have brought a remarkable increase in the number of families headed by single mothers. Unlike the old stereotypical images of poverty-stricken, uneducated and abandoned young teens or women facing parenthood alone, more and more successful, well-educated, professional single women are arriving at motherhood by choice and through adoption.

International Adoption

Advocates note that the number of both domestic and international adoptions have steadily increased. Compared to their married counterparts, single women say that the process of international adoption is less lengthy and the likelihood of adopting a younger child is much greater. Note that some countries ban international adoption by single mothers and will only allow married couples to adopt.

Unmarried women are more likely to pursue ​international adoption over domestic adoption. Birth mothers are more likely to select couples over singles for their babies in domestic adoptions, and age is a greater consideration for most agencies.

Satisfying the Need to Nurture

Single women often pursue motherhood for the same reasons married women do. They cite the same need and desire to love and nurture a child of their own. But unlike married women, a single woman faces the arduous process and costs of adoption alone and with the reality that she may end up raising her child alone without a partner.

Many single mothers who adopt will openly share that they are not necessarily single by choice. They hope to ultimately parent their child with a partner. Others are not only comfortable with being single but they choose to remain single as they raise children to adulthood.

Faced with ticking biological clocks, numerous women have unsuccessfully pursued intrauterine insemination with donor sperm and/or donor eggs before pursuing adoption as the road to parenthood.

Challenging Societal Responses

Friends, family, and society may applaud a married adoptive who rescues or adopts a child, but single mothers are not always so readily lauded for their plans to pursue motherhood. Detractors and critics may accuse single mothers of selfishness because they're not providing the child with a father and an intact home. Others will erroneously cite statistics linking single motherhood to a variety of potential social ills for their children.

A single woman may even have to develop newfound courage to conquer her own inner demons and alleviate her own previously-held thoughts and beliefs about adoption.

Dealing With Guilt

After investing so much—both financially and personally—including fertility treatments or traveling around the world to finalize the legalities of international adoption, both married and single adoptive parents may struggle with high expectations as they transition to a life with their child. Single mothers can feel guilt and shame when they long for moments of solitude and the independence of their former single lives. 

Support Systems

Fortunately, the Internet, television, and media have raised awareness of the issues single women face in the adoption process, as well as the challenges they may deal with after placement. The 24/7 nature of the Internet and the availability of a tremendous amount of information and resources on the web have led to increasingly savvy and well-prepared prospective adoptive mothers.

The successful single mother realizes that it isn't a sign of weakness or an indication of failure if she reaches out for assistance and support. Whether she does so through a support group for adoptive families, her personal counselor or the cyber world, help is readily available for her and her newly adopted child.

As she makes the transition into her new role as a mother, the guidance and information gathered from others who have already traveled this road alone can assist in watching out for and begin aware of known potholes and barriers.

It is not reasonable to assume that all married couples will stay married, nor should it be presumed that all single women will remain forever single. Instead, advocates for adoption by unmarried women believe that an individual's character, strength, and potential parenting capacity are better considered in providing a child with an adoptive home.

Martha Osborne is an adoption advocate, adoptive mom, and adoptee. She is also the editor of the online adoption publication,, the leading online resource for international adoption.

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  1. North American Council on Adoptable Children. Find a parent group.