Heather Creed grew up in suburban Indiana and attended Taylor University, expecting her life trajectory to be similar to that of many of her friends. “I always thought I would marry and have seven kids and be a stay-at-home, homeschool mom,” Creed said. “That’s clearly not what happened.”
Creed, 45, is now an attorney who settled in Columbus, Ohio, after stints in Waco, Texas, and New York City. Her family isn’t the traditional midwestern one of her childhood. She never married. But that didn’t stop her from adopting two boys and recently becoming licensed, for the second time, to foster children in her home.
Andy Jackson, 33, was single when he started fostering a decade ago while working as a special education teacher in Pell City, Alabama. He adopted his first child when he was 23 and went on to adopt two more children, one with special needs.
Now married, he and his wife have eight children—including a toddler they are in the process of adopting together, three biological children from his wife’s previous marriage, and one she adopted with her deceased husband. Collectively, they estimate, they have fostered more than 50 children through foster and respite care.
Angelle Jones, 64, was one of the first in her community to foster or adopt when she took in a five-year-old girl in Cincinnati in 1978. She was 21 then and hadn’t met another single African American adoptive parent like her—or even a black couple who had adopted from an agency. (Kinship adoption was more common, she said.) More recently, she’s had multiple conversations with single women around her who are considering adoption.
While adoption and orphan care have long been core causes for evangelicals, they have largely had the nuclear family at their center. In his 2010 case for “Why Every Christian Is Called to Support Adoption,” Russell Moore wrote in CT that “the fatherhood of God is better understood in a culture where children know what it means to say ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mommy.’”
Creed, Jackson, and Jones represent a small but significant number of Christian women and men pursuing foster care and adoption while single. Like other single parents, these single parents by choice often face immense financial and lifestyle challenges. But in evangelical churches, such parents also have to swim against the current of long-held norms around family.
As many Christians remain single longer and later, however, advocates say that singles who foster and adopt are finding increased acceptance and support among their fellow conservative Christians.
Singles—mostly women—accounted for nearly 30 percent of all public adoptions in 2019, taking in more than 19,000 children. The Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t track adoptive parents by religion and doesn’t distinguish between never-married and divorced individuals, but limited data from the National Survey of Family Growth shows that unmarried evangelical and nonevangelical women express similar levels of interest in adopting.
Jedd Medefind, president of the advocacy and support group Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), said he has seen singles involved in foster care and adoption throughout his career, but he’s noticed it a lot more in the past five to seven years, as foster care and adoption in general have surged in the church.
“It’s been a steady increase in both interest and engagement by singles in every facet of working with vulnerable children—foster care, adoption, mentoring,” Medefind said. “There is a desire to live out God’s call in practical ways, for their faith to not just be theoretical but to serve in hands-on ways.”