A single woman seeking to adopt a child faces a wall of discrimination that makes any other slights she received during her single years seem like spring training before a football season.
Once she begins that search for a child, she faces tackles from social workers scrutinizing her more thoroughly because she's single, foreign countries refusing her a child because she's single, birth mothers seeking only couples to parent their babies and adoption agencies only willing to give handicapped children and hard-to-place infants to singles.Because a woman is seldom more vulnerable than when she seeks motherhood, the rough process of adopting a child can be devastating.
The Deseret News interviewed several adoption experts to find out what a single woman can expect in the adoption process and how she can best weather the setbacks.
- Single parents have a much harder time adopting than couples do. It's a fact. Accept it. Singles will invest more time, undergo more scrutiny and be rejected more often than adopting couples.
"It's an emotional roller coaster. Be prepared for disappointment," advises D. Karl Mangum, a Salt Lake attorney specializing in adoptions.
- Adopting is expensive. "Parents probably can't do a foreign adoption for less than $5,000. Stateside adoptions range from $1,500 upwards," Mangum said.
Myriad other adoption expenses are piled on top of that, including as much as $800 for a required home-study course, legal costs in the foreign country and the cost of bringing the child from that country.
One adoptive parent said the total cost could run from $10,000 to $15,000 for a foreign adoption.
Mangum advises women seeking to adopt to have at least $5,000 in savings. The adoptive parent suggests they also have the ability to borrow "considerably more - and quickly."
- Financial preparation means more than a savings account. Foreign countries require an adoptive parent to have a certain annual income, said Susan Cox, spokeswoman for Holt International, an Oregon agency that specializes in foreign infant adoption.
Most countries require that a parent's gross annual income be at least $20,000, Cox said. But the minimum varies from country to country. Adoption agencies scrutinize a woman's finances to make sure she has the resources to provide quality child care as well as all other expenses attendant to raising a child.
- Expect intense and invasive scrutiny. A social worker will examine your financial and emotional stability and how well-prepared you are to raise a child. Your medical history will be reviewed and a report from your doctor required. The FBI will conduct a thorough investigation, as will immigration services and the adoption agency you go through.
If you are seeking to adopt a special-needs child - one with emotional, mental or physical handicaps - the scrutiny may be even more intense.
- Plan out every aspect of the child's care in advance.
Agencies, lawyers and judges will want to know about your support system, personal flexibility and resourcefulness, Cox said.
"We check to see if they have thought things through. We ask them what they will do when they absolutely need to have time for themselves. Who will care for the child when it is sick and the mother must be at work? Who are the close friends to support them in time of crises?"
Think through the answers to these and every other imaginable question.
- Some adopting parents are required to undergo "home study" that can include classes on the challenges of adopting special-needs and foreign children.
"We want to make sure the parents have thought through the issues of raising a child that will not look like them; that they understand they are adopting a culture as well as a child; that a foreign child isn't considered second-best but rather they are looking forward to raising a foreign child with anticipation and eagerness," Cox said.
- Realize it's tough for singles to adopt an infant and almost impossible to adopt a Caucasian infant. Many foreign countries will not allow their children to be adopted by singles.
"Korea, Thailand and most parts of India will not allow singles to adopt their children," Cox said. "Some parts of India, Latin American countries and the Philippines do. Romania does, but there is a moratorium right now on Romanian adoptions, so the point is moot."
Even if the country doesn't turn a single parent down, some adoption agencies do. Holt International gives an infant to a single mother only if the infant has some handicap or is part or all black, Cox said. "Preference and priority are given to two-parent families, and when there are so many two-parent families trying to adopt, there are fewer options for single parents," she said.
Other agencies are more flexible. Most Utah agencies will help a single parent get Latin American and Pacific Rim babies.
But singles rarely succeed in adopting American infants. "Birth mothers usually give their babies up because they want them to have two parents," said Colleen Burnham, director of Children's Aid Society of Utah. All specialists interviewed by the Deseret News said they did not know of a single case where a single woman successfully adopted an American infant.
- Be prepared to wait. Most specialists said it takes up to a year to get a child after the paperwork has been filed.