The Role of the Single Mother in Adoption

Until a short time ago, very little information on single women adopting children from the child welfare system was available. But the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), which is administered by the U.S. Children's Bureau, has begun to share this information with the public. An analysis of the data shows that single women have been a critical factor in providing these children with stable and permanent environments. The contribution is even more significant when it comes to adopting non-Hispanic African American children.

Blood Relatives

Almost one-third, 31%, of the approximately 36,000 children who were adopted from the child welfare system during the fiscal year of 1998, were adopted by single women. Over two-thirds of the children they adopted (70%) were of African American non-Hispanic origins. Not quite two-thirds of these single women (65%) had first acted as the child's foster parents before the adoption and more than one in five of them (21%) were blood-related to the child.  In over three-quarters of the adoptions (77%), the mother and child shared the same race or ethnicity.

In comparison with married couples who turn to adoption, twice as many single adoptive mothers are African American and non-Hispanic or 70% compared with 31%. They are also more likely to adopt children of their same race or ethnicity (84% compared with 71%). The single adoptive moms were just as likely as the married couples to have first fostered their adopted child (65% compared with 63%), and more likely to be related to the child (21% compared with 13%).

Older Kids

Single adoptive moms also adopt older children when compared with married couples who adopt. Single women adopted children who were at an average of 7.2 years, while married couples adopted kids of an average age of 6.3 years. It took longer for single moms to get from point A: termination of parental rights, to point B: adoption. The average amount of time this took was 17 months for single moms versus 15 months for married couples.

The general assumption has been that children adopted by single women are those most difficult to place. It turns out that this assumption has a basis in fact. Single women are more likely to adopt a child whose adoption is hampered by race or ethnicity (18% versus 12% for married couples), or a child whose adoption is hampered because of age (43% versus 27%). Single women also have a greater tendency to adopt children with medical conditions or other disabilities (14% versus 22%).

It's clear that single women are playing a huge role in giving warm and loving homes to kids on the fringes of society. Our society is blessed to have their help with those children who are not so easy to place, but have every right to a stable, happy environment.