More single people are adopting children today than when most of us were growing up. Adoption is no longer seen as the province of married couples. Many people feel that they're ready to be a parent even if they haven't found a partner to settle down with (or aren't looking for one).
However, most of those people are women. While the number of single men who adopt is growing, it's doing so very slowly. According to figures released in 2016, just 3 percent of adoptive parents were single men. That was up slightly from 2 percent, where the rate had held steady for years. Meanwhile, 26 percent were single women and over two-thirds were married couples.
Society's View of Single Dads
This continuing gender gap is due, in large part, experts say, to long-held societal beliefs reflected in the child welfare system that if kids are only going to have one parent, it's better to have a mom than a dad. A lot of men share this belief.
One adoption professional explains, "Men didn't perceive themselves as the right single parent and society didn't perceive them as the right single parent." He adds, "That is definitely changing," although he describes the change as "an incremental one."
Adoption organizations are broadening their perceptions of who can be a good parent. Single and married people, both gay and straight, now find that if they have what it takes to be a good parent, their marital status, sexual orientation and other demographic factors aren't going to prevent them from giving a child a home.
Self-Reflection Is Essential
All prospective adoptive parents need to do a lot of self-reflection before taking on a child. However, one official with the National Adoption Center says that single people need to ask themselves questions beyond whether they can support a child, how a child will fit into their life and whether they're prepared to raise a child, through thick and thin, into adulthood. Becoming a foster parent is a common first step towards adoption.
They should also ask themselves whether they'll be able to work and raise a child. This means having an employer who is supportive of parents when they need time off for a sick child or a school activity. It also means having a strong support system of friends and family.
People who are considering adoption are wise to contact a family law attorney who can explain the process, help it go more smoothly and work to prevent legal snags. This can help them focus on building a life with their new child.
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