Single, unwed mother adopts biological child to get equal benefits as legitimate children

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In order to benefit from government assistance in Singapore, some single mothers are taking the drastic measure of adopting their own child.

In a Straits Times report on 11 May, Ms Tan (not her real name), a single parent, started her adoption process last August after she noticed a Facebook page belonging to a support group for single parents.

She said to Straits Times (ST), "I saw a post talking about adoption. One woman left a comment saying that she did it for less than $1,000. So I sent her a message and asked her how she did it."

What adopting your own child essentially means is that it would 'normalise' a family nucleus and allow the child to have all the rights that a child born to a married couple would have. This would include housing, housing subsidies, the Baby Bonus cash gift, tax relief for the parent and inheritance priority.

Under the current Baby Bonus Cash Gift criteria, unwed parents cannot claim cash benefits for their child.

The Baby Bonus Scheme Eligibility check reflects the user system prompting a question - "Are the parents lawfully married?", and a Yes/No answer before the message below pops up, should the user select a 'No'.

Similarly, under the Child Development Account (CDA), parents who are not legally married are not eligible for the scheme if their child was born before 1 September 2016.

Under the Statutes of Legitimacy Act written in 1934, the act states that a child born out of wedlock is an illegitimate child. However, if a child is adopted, he/she is treated as he/she was born with parents who are legally married.

Specifically under 7 (1c) of the adoption act, "in respect of the same matters and in respect of the liability of a child to maintain its parents, the adopted child shall stand to the adopter exclusively in the position of a child born to the adopter in lawful wedlock".

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said that cases of unwed parents singly adopting their children are "very few", adding that the laws in Singapore do not require them to do so.

"Some unwed parents may nonetheless choose to do so, for reasons such as to terminate the rights and responsibilities of the other parent," MSF said.

Ms Tan told Straits Times that her motivating factor to consider adoption was the Baby Bonus cash gift and the CDA of up to $6,000, which has been extended to children of unwed mothers born from September last year.

Ms Tan said, "That was the push factor. But when I started the journey, I noticed more benefits".

She also said that one of the chief reasons she proceeded with the adoption process was that her child's  biological father - who is married and does not want to acknowledge her child - would have to give up all ties with her child. That would mean that in future, "he cannot turn around to claim against her," Ms Tan said, referring to the Maintenance of Parents Act.

Ms Tan and her daughter, Lorraine (not her real name), now live with Ms Tan's parents in her brother's marital home.

Ms Tan said that once the adoption process is successful, she is planning to buy a built-to-order flat in her and her daughter's names so as to guarantee that Lorraine's future is secured, even when Ms Tan dies. "I have to protect my daughter's interests," she said.

In response to ST's report, AWARE, Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group, said that it is "profoundly unconvincing to suggest that any meaningful values are promoted by making single mothers - already stressed and time-poor - jump through extra legal and administrative hoops to meet their children's needs and strive for a better life".

Ex-Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng also mirrored AWARE's sentiments on his Facebook post. He said,

"Here we have a story about a single, unwed mother who had to adopt her own biological child, so it gets legitimate rights. Ridiculous. Time to get rid of these archaic laws."