Surprise! You don’t have to be married to adopt

By Holt International
International ministry headquartered in Eugene

So many children are growing up around the world without the love and care of a family. And so many hopeful parents — singles and couples — are waiting with love to give. At Holt, our mission is to bring you together — regardless of your marital status.

“A lot of single applicants are concerned about their ability to adopt,” says Emily Lund, who as Holt’s primary adoption counselor often fields questions from hopeful adoptive parents. “The good news is that many of our country programs permit single applicants to adopt.”

In fact, four of Holt’s country programs are now open to single female applicants!

Since 2011, when China re-opened adoptions to single applicants, we have seen a steady increase in the number of women adopting a child on their own. Holt’s Philippines program also accepts single applicants on a case-by-case basis for older children or children with moderate to major special needs or for a relative adoption. The India program accepts single applicants, and is the only one of Holt’s country programs open to single male applicants. And last year, options for singles expanded once again when Vietnam re-opened international adoption to the U.S. and selected Holt as one of two placing agencies. Now, single female applicants open to an older child or a child with special needs can adopt from Vietnam!

Although not every single mother is equipped to care for a child with involved needs, many would make excellent parents to a child with more minor needs… And recently, China expanded options for single applicants yet again by lifting the special focus requirement. This means that Holt’s China program now matches single mothers with children who are younger or have more minor or moderate special medical needs!

This is excellent news for many hopeful parents — and it fully dispels the myth that you have to be married to adopt. But often, single applicants wonder why their options are restricted to only a few programs. “Why single parents are not accepted by all countries is a question I get a lot,” Emily says, especially since single parenting is so common here in the U.S. In many of the countries where we work, however, being a single or unwed mother still carries a significant social stigma. “Unintended pregnancies for a single woman can carry a huge burden, not just for her but for her family,” Emily explains. “She can be shunned at her job and by her family.” In fact, empowering single mothers is a significant part of our family strengthening efforts in many of the countries where we work — providing everything from counseling to cope with discrimination to free housing and vocational training should they choose to parent.

Just as single parenting by a birth mother is not yet socially accepted in many countries, placing children with single adoptive parents is also not fully embraced. As cultures continue to evolve, views on single parenting will likely change. But in the meantime, the good news is that for hopeful single mothers here in the U.S., options continue to expand.

The process to adopt as a single applicant is very similar to the process for two-parent households, with some variations in income requirements and the number of children who can be in the home.

Just like two-parent applicants, the minimum age to apply to Holt’s China program is 30, and there can be no more than 45 years between the age of the parent and child to be adopted. The process takes an average of 12-24 months from application to placement, and the parent will travel to China once. The profiles of children waiting for families in China is also the same for both singles and couples — boys and girls with minor to moderate special needs, 18 months to 13 years old at the time of placement.

Single applicants to the China program can have no more than two children under age 18 already at home, and the youngest child must be older than 5 at the time of application. China does show some flexibility on income requirements, depending on the region where the applicant lives.

The only other requirement for single applicants to Holt’s China program is that they must work outside the home — so having a strong social network of support is critical.

For Holt’s Vietnam adoption program, requirements for single applicants are exactly the same as for two-parent applicants. Parents must be between 25-54 at the time of application, though parents 55 and over are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Applicants to the Vietnam program can have four children already at home, and parents should anticipate traveling once for a three-week stay. On average, we anticipate that this pilot program will take 24-36 months from application to placement. Children who need families are older or have more involved special needs.

For single applicants to the India program, the maximum age for a parent is 45 for a child up to 4 years old, 50 years for a child 4-8 years old, and 55 years for a child older than 8 years. India also requires that adoptive parents be at least 25 years older than the child. Single males may apply, but per India’s requirements, they may only adopt a male child. Please contact the India program before applying.

For the Philippines, the minimum parent age is 27, and there can be no more than 45 years between the age of the parent and child to be adopted. There can be up to 3 children in the home, and parents should anticipate traveling once for a minimum of 5 business days. Please contact the Philippines program before applying.

To view more information about eligibility requirements, click here. But before applying, we do advise single applicants to reach out to our country program staff directly to confirm eligibility and chat about profiles of children available to singles from that country.

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