Adoption by Grandparents or Extended Family
If you adopt a grandchild, niece, nephew, or cousin, you will join one of the fastest growing areas of adoption: kinship placements. Because the parent, a relative, passes away or can no longer parent her own child, you may find yourself adding a child to your family. Courts and agencies like kinship adoptions because they allow the child to remain within the same extended family. Usually, a child does not have to start over with strangers when he continues within the same family.
If you are a grandparent or an older relative adopting, you may welcome thechance to “use thirty years of accumulated wisdom,” as one grandfather commented at the hearing that gave him permanent custody of his four-year-old granddaughter and her six-year-old brother.
You may be content with where you are in life, but find that the adoption presents you with the opportunity to make a huge difference in the life of an extended family member. You can do so with some training and professional support.
One couple, Sue Lee and Roger, took in Sue Lee's cousin, Lucy, whose mother had died of complications of anorexia and drug abuse, and who had been abusive toward Lucy. “I had no idea it would be so hard,” said Sue Lee after the eight-year-old was dropped off at their house. “Here was this cute red-headed girl. She looked like an angel, but within two weeks reality set in.” Sue Lee described her shock at discovering that Lucy would erupt into volcanic bursts of anger, almost without provocation or warning. At other times, she would withdraw into herself, hiding in the closet and hoarding food under her pillow.
Grandparents as Parents (GAP) is a national support group based in California formed to help grandparents deal with the issues of parenting when their grown children cannot. Their Web site,
They consulted with their pediatrician, who had recently completed training for meeting the special needs of neglected children. He was able to offer specific advice for dealing with certain behaviors, including dietary changes and activities that directly impacted Lucy's brain chemistry. He also prescribed medications to replace missing chemicals that he believed drove her anger. His treatments, combined with patience and her parents' loving reassurances, gradually turned Lucy into the smiling young adult she is today. Although most adoptive children do not need medication, it's important to understand that there are resources available to you should you find yourself having to manage an adopted child's unstable emotional behaviors.
If you have older children, you may have breathed a sigh of relief when your youngest started school, and looked forward to devoting more time to your career. You may have already retired or be close to it and anxious to enjoy a calmer lifestyle. However, unexpected events in your family may force you to reexamine your priorities.
The adoption may create a big change in your life. You may need to make changes to your:
It can be hard to reprioritize when you are older, but doing so makes a big difference in the life of the child you are adopting.