Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Single Parents

The recent National Center for Health Statistics' National Survey of Family Growth reports that “men adopt twice as often as women—2.3 percent of men versus 1.1 percent of women.” This reflects a national trend in which the number of single fathers more than doubled from 1.1 million to 2.5 million between 1990 and 2006. These statistics are promising, but the numbers can be misleading. Researchers have attributed the growth in the number of men involved in adoptions mainly to men who adopt their divorced or widowed wives’ children and to gay male couples. Furthermore, four out of five single-parent families are still headed by women.

Despite this, any growth in the involvement of single fathers in raising children is good news. The roles of parents have become more flexible in recent years, and single father households are no longer seen as a rarity. Mothers are often given parental responsibility by default, regardless of their ability to provide the optimal environment for their children, while fathers are held minimally accountable. If these societal stereotypes are abandoned, placing children whose mothers are unfit parents into foster care will no longer be seen as the only alternative. Likewise, many single men who would not previously have thought of adopting may see adoption from foster care as the best choice. There are a plethora of issues to consider regarding expectations and responsibilities that hopefully can further the situation of children who are already in or face the possibility of being in foster care.

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