The simple answer is yes: unmarried adults can be foster parents! According to a report from The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, just under 15,000 single women and nearly 2,000 single men adopted children or youth from foster care in 2017. Not all foster parents adopt and many children safely return to their biological families after spending time in foster care. But these figures show that single foster parents are out there, providing a loving and stable environment for children in foster care.
The biggest requirement of becoming a foster parent is actually the same for couples and single people— you must have a deep desire to love and care for children.
Is foster parenting for you?
Being a foster parent is a matter of the heart, so regardless of your marital status, your desire to care for a child should come from within. Mother Teresa once said, “If you do something out of duty it will deplete you, but if you do something out of love it will energize you.” This is a strong idea to consider when thinking about foster parenting, especially if you are single.
A great first step is to download our free questionnaire to see if foster parenting is right for you.
Now, foster parenting might not always energize you, as any parent or foster parent will agree that parenting is tiring, hard work. But, if your decision to foster parent comes from a place of love and passion for caring for kids, you will be capable of much more than you might imagine.
“Since I was never married, I never really considered it.”
Hayley Miller is newly licensed to be a foster parent. She’s also a single woman with a great job. She always planned to foster or adopt, but because she was unmarried, she thought she wasn’t cut out for it. “I have always had a thought in the back of my mind that I would want to foster or adopt,” she said. “But since I never married, I never really considered it. Over the course of the recent year, I began to encounter single women who were fostering. Honestly, I just never really considered doing it as a single woman… I am choosing to depend on God and with the support of others, am moving forward.”
Foster mom Rebekah Wells had a similar experience, realizing that her preconceived notions of when and how she would become a mom didn’t have to be her reality. “I come from a large family and always wanted kids of my own,” she said. “I had set a timeline that included graduating from college, finding a job, buying a house. But I realized there was no ‘perfect’ time to start a family and being a parent was what I wanted most. I was tired of waiting. So I did it alone.”
When still deciding, Miller said that she would have the tendency to look at why she shouldn’t or couldn’t be a foster parent as a single woman dedicated to her career. But she shifted from this mindset. Instead, she decided to find the reasons or creative solutions for making it work. “It will take some creativity, adventurous spirit, and learning as we go,” she said.
The great news is that being a single foster parent is possible. And it allows for the life-changing, rewarding experience of caring for a child.
Do you have what it takes to be a single foster parent?
This seems like a loaded question, but like so many life decisions and challenges, you will have to pose this question to yourself. Only you can answer this question. Often a “yes” will also require a leap of faith. So if you have love in your heart for kids and you want to be a foster parent as a single person, you might consider the more practical aspects of this question. These include your lifestyle, work-life balance, and the overall environment you would bring kids into. To decide if you can be single and a foster parent, consider these additional questions:
- Do you have a lifestyle conducive to bringing a child into your home?
- Is your work-life balance amenable to being a single foster parent?
- Do you have a support system of friends and family on whom you can rely?
The support system is arguably the most important piece to the single foster parenting puzzle. Wells touches on this, saying,
“There is never a day off as a single parent. Your foster kids need you even more than a non-foster [kid does] due to trauma and separation. It can be overwhelming. A support network through friends or church can be a saving grace for your foster family.”
When you are a single person, asking these types of questions are important first steps when considering yourself as the sole caregiver for a child.
Who you are as a person and what you feel you can take on also impacts your decisions on the gender or age of children you choose to foster. Single foster mom Eva Green, who is a widow, explains that she always considers the age of boys and girls who she agrees to take into her home.
All this being said, Miller’s attitude toward finding solutions is a great way to approach single foster parenting. Wells also discussed feeling nervous about finances and taking on the task of raising a child alone, but summed it up well by saying, “single parents do it all the time with less support or guidance from social workers.”
What is the process of becoming a foster parent as a single person?
Each state has different requirements for foster parents. Things like verifying your age and other identification information, income, and housing situation are all areas of your life that will be examined in your application. You will also complete background checks, home assessments, and foster parent training.
Because laws differ in different states, taking the time to look at your state’s laws regarding foster parenting requirements is also one of the first steps to take. For example, in Georgia, if you are a single person, there is an age requirement of 25 that does not exist for married couples. This resource from childwelfare.gov is a good compilation of requirements by state.
Expect the unexpected & know you are making a difference
When asked about her experience as a single foster mom, Rebekah Wells talked about flexibility. “When will that one go home? Will this one stay and how long? What is the new case plan? It seems like the answers change every day. It can be difficult to make large life choices ahead of time,” Wells said.
Wells’ reality as a foster mom includes not having the answers or future mapped out and it’s something she has come to expect. For those who are single and might be going from living on their own and only responsible for themselves, this attitude of flexibility is a must. “The good thing about plans is they can change,” Wells said.
Foster parents will all agree, the rewards far outweigh any curveball or struggle they face. “Know that we didn’t make the problems and they will not be fixed overnight,” Green said. “But, with some attention, structures, and guidance, kindness and love – we can help make things a lot better [despite] misfortune in a child’s life.”
We thank all of the KVC single foster parents who participated in this article! Check out our other articles to learn more about foster care and how to become a foster parent. You’ll find other helpful information at the links below. Have further questions? Please contact us.
- 5 Things You Need to Know About Foster Care
- Common Myths About Foster Care and Adoption
- Video: Hear from Real Foster/Adoptive Parents