Should Single Women Adopt?

Rev. Steve Schlissel - August 21, 2002

The Question…

Dear Rev. Schlissel,

I’m a Christian woman in my 40’s and have yet to be married. Do you think it is biblical for single women to adopt? After telling fellow-Christians of my desire to adopt a child, I’ve met with different responses than I had anticipated. I thought adoption was a great mercy. And one of my favorite verses is John 14:18 where Jesus said He would not leave me an orphan. Great men like A.H. Franke and George Mueller started orphanages. How do we minister to orphans? If you have some verses I would love to hear them.


The Answer…

Dear SN,

Thank you for your pertinent question. However, before providing a direct answer let me pause to remind all that the Bible is not a book given to us for the purpose of forcing out verses for answers to our questions. This versified approach is a formula for misunderstanding and has been a major contributory factor, in my opinion, to the weakening of the church in the West. This approach has led to that sort of “Bible study,” so common today, wherein all in the room are encouraged to tell “what this verse means to my heart.” Yuk! Far from this versified approach, God intends us to read, know and absorb the entire book, then live the life, and continue in the book, growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, with all wisdom and understanding.

Now, to the matter at hand. “Is it Biblical for single women to adopt?” If you mean does the Bible forbid such, the answer is no. If you mean does the Bible require such, the answer is no. If you mean does the Bible permit such, the answer is yes. However, just because something is permissible does not mean that it is desirable—or wise. God wants us to seek wisdom from Him and use it. This means, minimally, making significant decisions after gathering as much information as we can muster.

The information available to me suggests that children raised without a father are at a distinct disadvantage, all other things being equal. Gwen Austin, who with her daughter, Alma, started a ministry called MOMS (Mentoring Other Mothers who are Single), said, “The biggest problem in America today is fatherlessness. Without a committed, involved father in the home, children lack direction” (cited by Chuck Colson in Breakpoint, 04/09/01). The latter sentence is an understatement.

The statistics concerning fatherlessness are grim: Children without fathers comprise 70% of kids incarcerated, and 80% of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals (Sources: National Fatherhood Initiative, US Bureau of Census, FBI). Moreover,

85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
(Source: Center for Disease Control)

90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
(Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)

71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
(Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools)

75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
(Source: Rainbows for all God’s Children)

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
(Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census; see

One study after another bears bad news for Mom-only householding: “When a father is not present in the home, his son is twice as likely to end up in jail,” according to a newer study by Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton.

Among Black Americans the statistics are devastating, yet there has been what can only be perceived as blatant censorship of the facts. “Births to Unmarried Women,” categorized by race, used to be reported annually in the World Almanac. Not any more. Yet fatherlessness, not racism, is the most relevant factor in understanding the challenges facing the Black community today. “For black women, the percentage of first births either born or conceived before first marriage doubled from 43 percent in the 1930s to 86 percent in the 1990s. (And Baby Makes Two, by Cheryl Wetzstein, Insight Magazine, Dec 20, 1999). Three and one-half million black families were maintained by women in 1992. This represented nearly half (47 percent) of all black families in the United States.

The results of fatherlessness, let us repeat, are clearly devastating. “Of all black men in their twenties, one in three is currently in the care of the criminal-justice system” (The Economist, 10/21/95, p. 19). According to US government statistics, “Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 28% of black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime.” To ask how this might be forestalled or reversed, without addressing fatherlessness, is an exercise in futility and an example of merciless political correctness.

The mind shaped by Scripture, employing wisdom, will look at the above statistics and conclude: “The tale is tragic, but not surprising.” God ordained that families have two parents (ordinarily), and He has ordained that families be founded on paternity. One needs more than good intentions to make a Mom-only household work. Sure, there is no shortage of “Oprah” stories—and “Erin” movies—about single-Mom successes. But these, if true, are still statistically insignificant when placed in the light of the big picture.

Believe it or not, with all that being said, it is still possible to adopt as a single and do a decent job. I haven’t seen it done yet, but my experience is limited. We have seen single women adopt and spoil their wards beyond repair (humanly speaking), in large measure because they were loath to discipline.

One more thought and I’ll close: Is it a particular child, brought by God’s providence, who is being considered? If so, it may well be discernible whether adoption would materially improve his current circumstances and his opportunities for the future. That might add much to justifying an adoption, even in a Mom-only household. Being gracious and providing true help is certainly Christian!

It is quite understandable that a single woman past childbearing years might seriously consider the adoption option, but it is something to be approached with both eyes wide open. In squarely facing the downside, one might, with effort, make reasonable provisions to bolster the upside.


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