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If you are single, gay, lesbian or bisexual, it can be hard to become a parent. However, to start your own family you do not have to be in a relationship or be heterosexual, as there are now many alternative options to becoming a parent. The main choices are surrogacy, donor insemination, fostering, co-parenting and adoption. All choices have their benefits, but some options are more suited to some people than they are to others. Before making a final decision, it's best to learn about and consider all of your options fully.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is ideal for gay couples and single men. Surrogacy involves artificially inseminating a surrogate birth mother, with your sperm or your partner's sperm. If you are single, this option is ideal, however, if you are in a same-sex relationship, the child will only be genetically related to one of you, but this is not an issue with most people.

With surrogacy there are two main options – traditional and gestational. With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate's egg is used, so she is also the biological mother of the child. With gestational surrogacy, a separate egg donor is used and insemination occurs via IVF instead.Surrogacy is not clearly permitted in some countries. In Australia, only altruistic surrogacy is permitted. In the UK, surrogates cannot receive any financial benefits other than the cost of their expenses, and commercial surrogacy is illegal. In the USA, both altruistic and commercial surrogacy are permitted, but only in certain states. It is also more difficult for singles and same-sex couples to get support in surrogacy in the USA.

Donor Insemination

For single women and lesbian couples, using a sperm donor is a good option. Anyone, regardless of sexuality or marital status, can use a sperm donor. Donor insemination involves choosing a donor, who is usually anonymous, whose sperm will be used during the insemination process. You will then be artificially inseminated with the donors sperm, and if your egg is fertilized you will carry the baby. Sometimes insemination can be done via IVF.

Sperm donated to a sperm bank will come from an anonymous donor, who will have undergone many health checks and tests to ensure they are a suitable candidate for donation. Sperm banks will carefully match donations to potential parents. Some people choose to use a personal friend to donate sperm, but this is a little more difficult in terms of your legal rights. The donor at the sperm bank has no legal right or obligations to their biological child. However, if you choose to use sperm from a friend, you will have to hire a lawyer to draft the correct legal documents if you do not want the donor to have rights to the child. Donor insemination is available in Australia,USA, and the UK, regardless of your marital status or sexuality.

Fostering

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Fostering involves providing temporary care for a child, whose own parents can't currently care for them. Foster parents are not the legal parents of the child. There are two main types of foster care, which are long-term care and short-term care. With short-term foster care the child is placed with a foster parent for a short period, until their own parents are able to care for them again. Long-term fostering occurs when a child cannot be reunited with their parents. Instead, the child remains with the foster family until they become a legal adult. Occasionally with long-term fostering, if no one in the child's family can adopt the child, you may be able to file for adoption.

Same-sex couples and choice singles can foster a child in the UK, Australia and the USA. In order to become a foster parent you must fit certain criteria. You must be able to support the child and have a suitable home environment. Fostering is a wonderful option as there are not many hurdles for same-sex couples or choice singles to overcome. However, it can be hard for some people emotionally when the foster child returns to their parents.

Co-Parenting

Co-parenting is when two people or two couples raise a child together. Co-parenting is ideal for a gay man and a lesbian, a single heterosexual person and a homosexual person, or a gay couple and a lesbian couple. The woman is artificially inseminated with the male's sperm, and she then carries the baby to term.Co-parenting requires much discussion prior to the insemination. You must discuss your parenting views and choices to ensure that your co-parent is a suitable match, and to avoid any arguments over the child's care in the future.

Adoption

Adoption is an ideal option for both same sex-couples and single people. Adoption hands over the complete parental rights to you. In order to adopt you must go through a somewhat lengthy process, which involves many forms and assessments. If you are approved for adoption you will be put on the waiting list for a child, and then eventually matched with the appropriate one.

In the UK, same-sex couples and single people can adopt, but you must be over 21. In Australia, joint same-sex adoption is only legal in Western Australia, New South Wales, and Australian Capital Territory. In the USA, almost all states permit single heterosexual and gay/lesbian adoption, but many are unclear as to whether or not they allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly. If you are in a same-sex couple this means that you may have to adopt the child alone, and then have your partner file for legal custody of the child later. This is called second parent adoption.

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