Written by: Caroline Meyer
There are over 46,000 children in Australia that are in and out of home care. For more than three quarters of these children, they are unlikely to ever go back to their biological family permanently. Most of them have already been in the system for over 2 years. There are many different foster care agencies and adoption services in Australia and the regulations can change from one jurisdiction to another. There isn’t a single central body where people can apply. Each territory has its own regulations and rules. You must investigate the regulations specific to the area where you are wanting to adopt.
At this point in time, all of the states and territories besides the Northern Territory allow same sex couples who meet all the other criteria to adopt. They also allow for adoptions by LGBT individuals although it is only under undisclosed “exceptional circumstances” in the Northern Territory.
Most territories do allow for single people to apply for adoption except in Victoria. There is a decided bias to allowing couples to adopt over singles in most situations though. Australia practises open adoptions though, for both international and domestic adoptions. This means that there is full disclosure and the children can have contact with the birth family under most situations. The relationships with the biological family are encouraged and the adoptive children are made aware of their past circumstances.
Challenges for single adoption
Although there is a lot more acceptance for single parent adoptions, there is still a marked bias towards dual parent adoptions. It is believed by various mental health experts that a two-parent household is the ideal, based on a heterosexual marriage where both parents are loving and compatible. This can seem like an unrealistic expectation in many circumstances. For some children, this ideal is impossible. This bias is seen as unfair and often not in the best interest of the child.
Another obstacle may be the friends and family of the single person looking to adopt. People may try to convince you that the responsibility is too great and that you cannot cope alone. They may put out all sorts of reasons why a single parent cannot raise a child successfully and still pursue their own dreams. If this is something you really want, you need to ignore the naysayers.
You will also have a lot of research ahead of you. Many agencies will not even allow for singles to sign up to adopt. Some have very strict policies in place, while others will have regulations relating to the adoption which may not be the same as a dual parent adoption. Some agencies will accept your application but will not process your application if there is a chance of finding a two-parent placement for adoptive children. You may also be offered children that may be unsuitable to your circumstances. These would generally be hard to place children such as those with disabilities or those that are already a lot older than what you are looking for. You can look at an independent adoption which is not done through an agency, but this can be costly, and many mothers may not be prepared to have their baby adopted by a single parent. The road ahead may be quite a tough one. This is especially true for single men wanting to adopt. They may be interrogated about their sexuality, living arrangements, friends and their motives will be scrutinized intensely. Even after passing all the screening, they will often be turned down in favour of dual parenting families or even single women.
The sad truth is that studies that have been done comparing children adopted by single parents to those that are adopted by dual parented families have just as good outcomes, if not better outcomes. Yet, even with the statistics, the adoption agencies will still show a decided bias towards a “traditional” parenting situation. Some of the reasons giving are reduced access to finance and more pressure on the one parent to cover all costs related to the child as well as there being no dedicated person to share the child raising responsibilities.
Some of the advantages of single parent adoptions is related to emotional and physical trauma that the children may have experienced. A child that has been abused by a parent may have a harder time adjusting to a family which has parents of both genders. They may also feel a closer bond and better emotional safety having just the one parent that can dedicate all their love and support to the child. Even in biological families, it has been noted that many children are raised in single parent households, especially single mothers. This is not just in situations where there was an accidental pregnancy and the mother was abandoned by the father, which was the age-old stereotype. Today, many professional women choose to fall pregnant and raise their child alone or seek to adopt a child.
The good news is, although there is still a bias, there has been an increase in single parent adoptions over the past two decades. With the increase in families with only one biological parent and the research surround this, more agencies are starting to consider adoption by singles. This means a wider range of prospects for singles wanting to adopt.
There is fortunately a lot of support both online and offline when it comes to adoptions in Australia. Do your research and approach agencies that are more likely to be unbiased towards single-parent adoptions. You will still have to undergo the stringent checks that are done, but at least you are not put on the backburner indefinitely. Agencies will also help you prepare for a life with an adopted child and fostering the relationship with the biological family as well. Make sure you can show them that you have done your homework and will be able to take care of the child long term and this should go a long way to improving your chances of being able to adopt a child and creating your own little family.