Most industrialized countries face a growing number of single-parent families headed by a woman, and the needs of such families are receiving greater consideration now than ever before. Recommendations for legislative changes providing more varied and more adequate support to such families are being actively considered in many countries. Special measures such as housing for single-parent families, increases in day-care facilities and special maintenance allowances for single-parent families will reduce the difficulties in keeping and caring for the children of such families. Consequently, single mothers are likely to be in a better position in the future to raise their own children rather than surrender them for adoption, and policy changes are likely to move in the direction of reducing disincentives to surrender the child for adoption.
The general climate of social attitudes has also changed in ways which currently make it easier for the unmarried mother to keep and raise her child. If the label of unmarried mother results in rejection, embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, or a self-image of moral inferiority and deviance, and is reinforced by the reaction of others, then incentives towards surrender are high. However, an increasingly more neutral, less punitive attitude towards the unmarried mother attenuates the incentives towards surrender.
Demographic changes also result in a reduction in the number of children available for adoption. The low birth rates of the 1965-1975 decade project a smaller group of adolescents and young adults in the near future. This is the age group for which the rate of illegitimacy is highest and for whom the difficulties in keeping and raising a child are greatest. The pressure of circumstances predisposing to surrender are greatest for this group, as is the pressure from parents, on whom the adolescent is likely to be dependent. Contraction of the size of this cohort group makes for a reduction in children available for adoption. The lowering of the age at which a child is no longer regarded as a minor legally dependent on parents may likewise result in a reduction in the number of children available for adoption. The trend is towards a reduction in the age of emancipation from 21 to 18 years. A larger number of adolescents with unwanted pregnancies will be in a position to make independent decisions regarding abortion and keeping their children without involving the consent of their parents. The greater weight of such parental pressure has been in the direction of surrender of the out-of-wedlock child. Earlier emancipation will tend to reduce the potency of pressure in this direction.
Because of related travel expenses and the decreasing availability of adoptable children, an average overseas adoption costs parents between $10,000 to $15,000. According to a 1993 report, approximately 400,000 children reside in foster homes and orphanages in the USA, but only 36,000 qualify for adoption. 29 out of 30 US candidates have realized their hopes of adoption are highly limited if they pin their hopes on adopting North American infants.