Karen saw her son’s face for the first time in an e-mail. The baby had brown tufts of hair and round cheeks, and he immediately captured her heart.
Karen was single and 46-years-old when she flew to a small orphanage in Vietnam to adopt the baby she named Emmanuel. She has joined a growing number of single women in their 40’s and 50’s who are taking alternative paths to motherhood.
In the last several decades, the number of single people adopting children has been increasing slowly and steadily in both domestic and international adoptions. The advocacy group Single Mothers by Choice estimates that 25 percent of its members are women in their 40’s and 50’s who have adopted babies.
Adoption agencies are quick to see the advantages of single parents who have more life experience and are increasingly more financially independent. Single adoptive parents raise children with as much success as married couples. Studies have found that adopted children of single parents are as well-adjusted as adopted children of married couples.
Karen was in her mid-40s and was a successful freelance journalist and novelist in New York when she realized what her life was missing. “I’d already gone to every party I needed to go to,” she said. “I’d already had some nice relationships and some really bad ones. The one thing I hadn’t had was a child.”
And she was not alone.
Across the country the number of single parent placements steadily continues to increase, both in domestic and international adoption. Spence-Chapin has seen a sharp increase in the number of single parents adopting over the last two decades.
After more than a year of being in the process of adoption, Karen flew to Vietnam to meet her 6-month-old son. She took a bus down a winding dirt road to the orphanage where Emmanuel had been found a few months earlier.
After bringing Emmanuel home, Karen encountered some of the difficulties that many single parents face. She was not prepared for how physically, emotionally, and financially demanding being Emmanuel’s only parent would be. Single parents should have social, psychological, and financial resources at their disposal and plan for these resources before their child comes home. Before adopting her son, Karen would write late into the night. But late night feedings and loss of sleep left her with little energy to write. Karen’s income fell as her expenses increased. Fortunately, she had saved money ahead of time. Single parents should have adequate financial resources, such as an emergency fund in case of medical expenses or unemployment. A supportive and flexible workplace environment is also crucial when a single parent needs to deal with the inevitable crises of parenthood.
Adoptive parents find that the adjustment period after placement is easier with support from family and friends. Karen was blessed in that both of her parents are still living and she has a sister who babysits frequently. Finding a network of support is extremely important for single parent adoption. Single parents need to consider their support system: who could provide emergency childcare, who they can call at 2 AM, and who would be their child’s guardian in case of their death. It is important to arrange your support system and resources for childcare help prior to your child coming home. Consider family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues who could help you in an emergency and in daily life. Think about joining a single parent support group or befriending other single parents. Friends, family, and support groups can offer the emotional and physical care a single parent will need.
Nancy, another single mother, says many older women struggle with high expectations after investing so much time and money into fertility treatments or adoption. These mothers often feel guilty when they long for moments of solitude and the independence of their former childless lives. Nancy advises single parents to let go of their guilt and address their personal needs, both for themselves and their children.
Nancy encourages single people to educate themselves about adoption and consider the reasons why they want to adopt in the first place. Single parents must think about the time they can dedicate to a child and whether they have a support system in place. They should not enter into an adoption process without careful planning and honest self-evaluation. Karen and Nancy agree that there is an abundance of resources and support groups for single parents.
To Karen, having the chance to raise Emmanuel is worth all of the sleepless nights and worries over money.
She says, “Nothing is better.”
Spence-Chapin brings over 100 years of experience to providing adoption and adoption-related services of the highest quality. Our mission is driven by the simple belief that every child deserves a family. We have placed over 20,000 children in loving, permanent families since 1908.
We have domestic and international adoption programs in the United States, Bulgaria, Colombia, and South Africa. We are thrilled to be one of only two American agencies approved for adoption by the South African Central Authority. We have offices located in New York and New Jersey and easily work with adoptive parents living across the United States.
We work with all types of families: married couples, unmarried couples, LGBTQ parents, single women and single men, families who are already parenting, families who are transitioning out of fertility treatments, and families of all ages, income levels, ethnicities, and religions.
Spence-Chapin focuses on educating families about who the kids in need of adoption are and preparing families to meet their needs. We guide parents with lifelong support and education through our Modern Family Center, and advocate for all types of families who want to become parents. We will share with you what we know about adoption and how you as parents can best support your child through their lifelong journey of understanding his or her unique story.