Single parent adoption is increasing in the United States. The New York Times ran a story in 2017 about a 20-something teacher that had agreed to become a temporary foster parent to one of his students. He grew close to the troubled child, and a few years later adopted him. The man was hesitant at first because he thought the child needed both a mother and a father. But the child was thriving so he decided to go through with adoption, and it appears to have worked wonderfully. This kind of thing may be more common than you think.
The law is usually not a roadblock
Our society has traditionally tried to place adopted children in traditional, two-parent, heterosexual households. Those households have also been overwhelmingly white. There is really nothing in the law that forces this outcome, though. First, it is important to note that a child cannot be adopted until the birth parents no longer retain parental rights. This can be accomplished voluntarily, as many teen mothers relinquish their rights so that their child can be adopted, for example. Parental rights can also be severed if a parent has been abusive or otherwise failed the child for an extended period of time.
Once a child is free to be adopted, the National Adoption Center points out that there is nothing blocking single parents. A state or private adoption agency typically helps match a child and with parents. Most states require a public adoption agency to allow any prospective parent to register and then to review each one as a potential adopter. The agency makes the decision about who will be allowed to adopt the child, and a judge will normally just review the decision to make sure it is in the best interest of the child. A judge does not sit around and choose the best parents based on some law.
Adoption agencies are coming around to single parents
The real roadblock for single parents has traditionally been adoption agencies. Adoption agencies can be very discriminatory. Research has found that agencies do not like to place children with disabled parents, for example. Similarly, same-sex adoption was unheard of until recent years. Even cancer survivors are looked down on as prospective parents. About a third of adoptions go to single parents today, but single parents make up a disproportionate number of adoptions of special needs and foster children. This suggests that single parents tend to be the last resort. Adoption agencies continue to seek out wealthy, two-parent households as adoptive parents and unfortunately, that can be a recipe for discrimination.
While the law does not necessarily block single parent adoption in most cases, some conservative states are protecting the rights of faith-based adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples or single parents. This is controversial because many of these religious adoption agencies get state funding. Some people feel that the state is sponsoring discrimination. In fact, some states had previously outlawed adoption by same-sex couples, but single parents have never faced quite that level of discrimination.