Forum: Questions remain about new Adoption of Children Act

Under the Adoption of Children Act 2022, which was passed in Parliament on May 9, couples seeking to adopt must be married under laws recognised by Singapore.

Later, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) clarified that single, divorced or widowed persons can apply to adopt alongside married couples, but that their applications would be assessed "on a case-by-case basis".

The ministry reiterated that the Government "does not encourage planned and deliberate single parenthood as a lifestyle choice".

The Association of Women for Action and Research has worked extensively with single parents over the years, conducting research into their challenges and providing services. Having observed these parents and their capacity to overcome obstacles, we cannot agree with the Government's blanket disavowal of single parenthood, or the implication that being legally married somehow makes people better parents.

Here are some other questions we have about the new Act.

First, does the approach outlined by MSF truly put the welfare of children first?

Singapore acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1995. Article 21 of UNCRC states that parties must "ensure that the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration" in matters relating to adoption. Does the desire to prioritise parenthood within marriage inadvertently counter that principle, by denying or delaying some children's access to viable homes?

Second, do the new restrictions constitute a policy change, a codification of existing practice or simply a clarification of policy that was in place under the old Act?

Third, given the additional discretion that single adoption applicants will face, can MSF shed more light on how its case-by-case decisions and suitability assessments will be made?

Though we understand the need for robust criteria for prospective adopters, we have also heard accounts of single mothers whose adoption processes took notably longer, and felt far more onerous, than those of their married counterparts.

It seems only right that these criteria be made publicly available, so that prospective parents can make informed decisions about family planning.

Shailey Hingorani

Head of Research and Advocacy

Association of Women for Action and Research

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