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Lesson 6 of 7

Domestic Adoption for Single and LGBTQ+ Parents

Video Lesson

Written Lesson

Quick Rundown on Costs

Since single and LGBTQ hopeful parents often have an array of options to consider as they think about bringing children into their lives, we thought it would make sense to briefly outline the costs of each.

Foster Parenting

One frequent path to consider is becoming a foster parent. Fostering usually comes with subsidies and other support, and therefore doesn’t require the financial resources of adoption. In most circumstances, however, the goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families of origin. We have a detailed course on fostering that we suggest you reference.

Fertility Treatments

The costs of medical interventions such as intrauterine insemination ($500–$4,000) and in vitro fertilization ($20,000) costs can be easy to approximate. But you may need to have more than one of these treatments before they work, so your total expenses and the length of your timeline will greatly vary depending on a number of factors, female age being a major one.

That said, many single and lesbian women have higher success rates than heterosexual coupled patients who are sub-fertile. We have detailed courses for lesbians (here) and single women which you should consult.


Finally, pursuing IVF with donor eggs and a gestational carrier (often a consideration for gay couples) costs $60,000 to $200,000, obviously well above the typical costs of an adoption.

We have a detailed course on the subject (here) that includes a discussion of state-by-state complexity, which is worth your reviewing.

Single People

Almost every state’s laws either explicitly state that “unmarried adults” are eligible to adopt or are silent on the terms “married” or “unmarried” (e.g., say “any adult person may adopt”).

In reality, the likelihood of adoption for a single person depends on two factors:

  1. The perspectives of the social worker or agency conducting the home study, who will assess the applicant’s financial, medical, and emotional capacity to parent.

  2. The preferences of the expectant mother (and father if he’s involved).

For these reasons, it’s important to work with an agency or attorney who can arrange for home studies to be done by professionals who have previously been respectful of a single person’s wishes to adopt (e.g., certain faith-based agencies may be disinclined to help you).

Similarly, you want your agency or attorney to have a track record in finding and working with pregnant women open to the idea of placing their child with a single parent.

While many expectant parents favor couples as the way to offer their child stability, others prefer single-parent households, which they perceive to be more reliable because they’re free from upheaval such as separation and divorce.

There’s not much data on what the adoption experience is like for single parents. But one survey of single adoptive mothers showed they generally felt like the issues and challenges they encountered were similar to those of women raising children in a two-parent family.

On one hand, as a single parent you get to establish the rhythm of the house and the behaviors you want to encourage. On the other hand, single parents generally shoulder the financial burden of maintaining a family by themselves, so their children may be more affected by problems arise at home or at work.

If becoming a foster parent is an option you’re considering, we recommend taking a look at our course on becoming a solo parent.

LGBTQ+ Individuals and Couples

Today, over 65,000 children live with a gay or lesbian adoptive parent, and current estimates are that roughly 5% of all adoptions are to same-sex couples. However, in some places (e.g., Massachusetts and Washington DC), upwards of 1 in 5 adoptions are to an LGBTQ parent.

It can be important to focus on location here for a number of reasons. First, while most state laws explicitly or implicitly allow for LGBTQ individuals and same-sex couples to adopt, there is a lot of variation between states and even within certain states. For context, as recently as 2010, Florida explicitly prohibited LGBTQ individuals or couples from adopting.

Next, not all agencies or social workers – who conduct home studies and more – are supportive of LGBTQ adoptions. In addition, usually citing religious beliefs, a number of states (mostly in the southeastern US) allow agencies contracting with them to not work with LGBTQ clients.

The Human Rights Campaign has spearheaded a project to promote LGBTQ-inclusive practices and to recognize agencies that are leading the way. An HRC report recognizes 71 adoption organizations across the country that have met various benchmarks for LGBTQ inclusion.

When we speak with LGBTQ couples who adopted 10 to 15 years ago, we hear mixed experiences about how they felt perceived by agencies and social workers, but many believe that attitudes and the process itself have improved.

Finally, expectant parents in some regions may be more or less willing to place their child in an LGBTQ home, with some rejecting the notion altogether and others expressly keen to do so.

In the foster care world, the children are generally not infants, so their opinions and preferences are taken into account. A University of Texas survey of foster and adopted children with LGBTQ parents showed generally positive feelings toward their families.

To the positive, many felt their foster or adoptive parents were more open, accepting and sensitive. Their biggest issue was a fear of being teased because their parents are gay.

When investigators at University of Kentucky tried to gauge the impact on adopted children of being part of an LGBTQ family, they recorded similar findings. Seventy-four percent of the children surveyed demonstrated positive abilities to cope, feelings about their family, and resilience.

While 57% of the respondents experienced microaggressions, fewer than 10% experienced bullying or teasing. While microaggressions can be difficult to absorb (bullying or teasing being the hardest), investigators generally found children recounted their experiences with “neutral” or average levels of distress.