Research Boosts Morale For Single Adopters
Research commissioned by the Department of Health and carried out by Morag Owen, a Research Fellow at Sussex, has shown that that pariah of society - the single mum - can sometimes make the best adoptive parent.
Morag's study 'Adoption by Single People' followed the fortunes of 48 children placed with 30 single parents - 28 mums and 2 dads. She found that the vast majority took to their adoptive homes with gusto - "all the children said they had found the adoption experience good and satisfying, and they did not feel stigmatised by being in a one-parent family."
Some adoption agencies and local authorities, in keeping with the rest of society, were shown by the survey to be prejudiced against single parents, seeing them as a 'second best' option. Bearing in mind that nearly one in six of the children waiting for adoption in 1994 were still waiting for a home two years later the question of whether there is a 'second-best' option could be raised.
Indeed, the study highlights areas in which single people can be the best option for adopted children. In addition to girls who wish to be placed with women because of damaging relationships they have had with male members of their family, many of the children - who all had special needs - required special one-to-one parenting, and benefited from the simpler decision-making processes and consistency that one parent could offer.
The participants in the study were from varied social backgrounds, and took on children with a range of special needs, from cultural requirements to learning and behavioural problems. Many of them continued to work, but all of them made considerable adjustments in their lifestyles, such as cutting their working hours. Again, as Morag points out, those parents who have been traditionally excluded by adoption agencies had special attributes they could bring to this process - "Women over 40 have often achieved their career goals and may feel more confident about taking time out to look after children than women in their 20s and 30s." Similarly, they are more likely to be solvent and to have established support networks to help with childcare needs.
According to Morag, "many people have an out-of-date expectation of how stringent adoption criteria are." In the 1960s it was felt that children must be put with a 'normal' two-parent family, and adoptive parents were judged on their marital relationship. Now it is more common to judge adoptive parents by how likely they are to bond with a child. As Morag says - "People should be, and are now starting to, look for a person who can care for kids. The rest is subsidiary."
Friday 6th November 1998