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Can a Grandparent Adopt a Grandchild? You May Be Surprised

Grandchildren are precious, and spending time with them is a gift that is cherished. Special circumstances may arise leaving us to wonder, can a grandparent adopt a grandchild?

A grandparent can adopt their grandchild by filing a petition with the courts. If there was a death of one of the parents, incarceration, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, or another situation presenting a threat to the child’s well-being, then a petition may make sense.

The decision to petition for custody of one’s grandchild is no small task. Petitioning alone implies that the parents would not voluntarily relinquish their parental rights.

This type of family dynamic could cause all involved a tremendous amount of stress and heartache.

No grandparent dreams of having a grandchild and then ripping them away from their parent so they may raise them as their own.

Unfortunately, grandparents at times need to step up when they know the grandchild is in a compromising living situation that is not in the child’s best interest.

Now let’s take a look at some common questions that grandparents may have asked themselves. We have the answers.

Grandmother with her arms around her young granddaughter.

How Hard Is It for Grandparents to Get Custody?

There may be a time when a grandparent considers trying to get custody of their grandchild and wonders, how hard is it for a grandparent to get custody of their grandchild?

It is very hard for a grandparent to get custody of their grandchild unless they can prove that the child is in a situation that jeopardizes the child’s safety and well-being. It is not enough to petition for custody because of how the child is being raised unless abuse or neglect can be proven.

Like any other custody petition, there are legal procedures that must be followed. If a grandparent can prove to the courts that the grandchild’s safety or well-being is being compromised, then there are grounds to move forward; difficult or not.

Regardless of who is attempting to adopt a child, everyone is expected to meet the requirements. As long as you are healthy and fit to raise a child, you are off to a good start. To be prepared, you may want to read about what medical conditions prevent you from adopting a child. You will want to be prepared and do your research before you get started so you know what will disqualify you from adopting your grandchild.

As grandparents, we want what is best for our grandchildren.

Yet we cannot simply petition for custody if we do not like our adult child’s spouse or because we do not get along with our adult child and rarely get to see our grandchild.

Grandparents may not agree with how a child is being raised, but if the child is in an intact family, there is not much they can do about it. Parents have the right, whether grandparents agree or not, to how they raise their children.

Successfully petitioning for custody of one’s grandchild requires more serious allegations.

Can I Adopt My Grandchild Without a Lawyer?

Hiring an attorney can be expensive, so can you adopt a grandchild without a lawyer?

You can petition to adopt your grandchild without a lawyer by visiting your local Department of Social Services or Judicial Court website and downloading the appropriate forms and instructions. Although, some may find that having a lawyer enables a faster, smoother process.

For those who are do-it-yourselfers and not intimidated by the court proceedings, the necessary court forms may be obtained on the state’s judicial website.

Feeling confident and following the instructions will help you save money as well as give you a sense of control over your petition to adopt your grandchild.

Although difficult, it is not impossible to be granted custody of your grandchild providing you can prove to the courts that the child is in an unsafe living environment and that it is in the best interest of the child they instead live with you.

A lawyer would want the evidence gathered and made available to present to the courts.

And one note of advice on those court forms. When downloading them from the state’s website, one can fill in the information on their computer before printing them.

This is encouraged, as printing them and then handwriting the information will appear less professional.

After all, when these forms are processed in a lawyer’s office, the information is typed, not handwritten.

The more polished you are in presenting your case, the more you will appear professional and put together.

Can Grandparents Get Custody Over the Father?

A grandparent may wish to petition for custody of their grandchild, but can grandparents get custody over the child’s father?

The grandparents have no right to obtain custody over the father unless the grandchild’s father is proven to be unfit to parent the child. The grandparents may dislike the father and feel he is unfit to parent the child, but neglect, physical abuse, or other abuses by the father must be proven.

Occasionally, a grandparent finds they do not like the grandchild’s father and wishes they could get custody with the thought process that they would provide a much better environment for the child.

Yet, it is not enough to dislike a parent and then terminate their parental rights.

Parents have the right to parent their children in any manner they wish. This could include what others may feel are crazy late bedtimes, speaking derogatorily in front of their children, or other things that good parents would never do.

However, that is not enough to take away their parental rights.

Only in extreme cases of domestic physical altercations, alcohol and drug abuse, and other dysfunctional behaviors is there a chance for a grandparent to gain custody over the father.

Yet for those grandparents trying to obtain custody of their grandchild over the father who can prove the father is unfit, then, by all means, the grandparents may be able to get custody of the father.

Just know that the courts will always try to keep the children with either the mother or the father unless, of course, extenuating circumstances can prove that neither is fit or available to care for the child.

Can Grandparents Get Custody From CPS?

For varying reasons, children can end up in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). And a common question is, can grandparents get custody of their grandchild from CPS?

Grandparents may be granted temporary custody of their grandchild if the child is in the custody of CPS. This gives the courts some time to decide what is in the best interest of the child. If both parents are proven to be unfit, then grandparents may eventually obtain permanent custody.

When children are removed from their homes and placed into the custody of CPS, they are typically placed into a group home until a foster home can be found for them.

Courts may feel that it is in the best interest of the child to instead be placed with a grandparent until a resolution can be determined.

A court’s priority is always to reunite the child with their parents. Depending on the reason for the child being placed into the custody of CPS, the parents may be required to attend counseling and receive treatment for whatever caused them to lose temporary custody of their child.

Providing the parents abide by the process, follow the required recommendations, and demonstrate a desire to regain custody of their child, they will more than likely be given the chance to again parent their child.

The hope is that through treatment and or counseling, the parent will have learned some new parenting skills and has a new awareness of healthy parenting.

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What is Kinship Adoption?

Kinship adoption is when an adult adopts an eligible family member. Kinship adoption is also referred to as relative adoption. For example, a grandparent may wish to adopt their grandchild.

Kinship adoption can happen when a child has already been living with a family member who has acted as their guardian or parental figure, and the family decides to use a relative adoption to legally guarantee the child’s standing within the family.

In some cases, a mother may recognize that she is unable to care for her child and thereby transfers parental rights to a trusted family member.

The child’s legal parent is this family member, although the child’s biological mother can continue to be an active part of the child’s life.

In other circumstances, the state may have intervened and removed the child from the home. States try to place foster children with eligible family members before using their limited foster care resources. 

Placing a child with a family member is viewed as best for the child removed from their original home.

Placement with relatives, or kin, is often the first option considered by foster care workers when children cannot safely remain in their parents’ home or cannot be reunited with them.

Kinship families often have different needs and face different challenges than families who adopt children unrelated to them.

How Long Does Kinship Adoption Take?

The time kinship adoption takes depends on the state in which the family resides. For instance, some states may only require that you pass a background check and a home study. 

If the caseworker has concerns, they might ask for additional requirements to be met such as parent training, psychological assessments, and so forth. The number of hoops to jump through is determined by the kinship placement’s qualifications.

That can happen in as little as two weeks or take several months. The delay might be several months in areas where a home study is required before adopting a child.

What is Kinship Guardianship?

Kinship guardianship is a permanency option for a child who has been placed in out-of-home care as it creates a legal relationship between a child and caregiver without the necessity of terminating the parents’ parental rights.

Legal guardianship is a judicially established relationship between a child and a responsible adult in which the guardian accepts many of the rights and obligations that the child’s parents would normally have.

Traditionally, a guardian has been a person nominated by a parent in his or her will to take care of the kid following the parent’s death or permanent handicap.

A court may appoint a guardian for a minor in addition to parental arrangements for guardianship if the parent is unable or unwilling to provide sufficient care for his or her kid or if parental rights have been terminated.

When a relative or other kin has been caring for the kid as a foster parent, a court may designate that person as a permanent guardian.

When reunion with the child’s parents or adoption is not a viable option, kinship guardianship might be a permanency option for a kid in the legal custody of a department of social services.

Guardianship establishes a legal connection between a kid and a caretaker that is meant to be permanent and self-sustaining, allowing the child to have a permanent family without having to terminate parental rights.

The Process of Becoming a Kinship Guardian

To establish a guardianship, a petition is filed with the court that has jurisdiction over the child’s case by a parent, the state or county child welfare agency that has legal custody of the child, the prospective guardian, the child or his or her legal representative, or any other person with a legitimate interest in the case.

The court will then schedule a hearing to review the petition.

The court will decide whether the proposed guardianship arrangement would provide the child with a suitable permanent home at the hearing. The following are some of the elements that go into making that decision:

  • The home study demonstrates that the potential guardian’s residence is secure and capable of meeting the child’s requirements.
  • The findings of the prospective guardians and all adult members of the prospective guardian’s household’s criminal records and child abuse and neglect registry checks indicate nothing that would put the child’s safety at risk.
  • The potential guardian and members of the prospective guardian’s home are familiar with the child.
  • The prospective guardian is aware of the long-term nature of guardianship and has demonstrated a strong commitment to caring for the child throughout his or her childhood.
  • The child has been contacted about the guardianship and has given his or her consent to the guardianship placement.

The court will designate the individual as the child’s guardian once it has established that the prospective guardian’s household is suitable for the child and that the placement will be in the child’s best interests.

What is Kinship Foster Care?

Grandparents and other relatives are regularly enlisted to assist in the care of a relative’s child. Almost half of all children placed in out-of-home care by the state are placed with a relative or someone familiar to the child and/or family.

When a child is removed from their home due to a safety concern such as child maltreatment, kinship foster care is an out-of-home arrangement for full-time care by relatives such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, tribe members, godparents, or others who are not the child’s parents but have a family relationship with the child.

As an alternative to placement with non-relative foster parents, children may be put in kinship foster care through a child welfare agency (i.e., official kinship care) or informal, private arrangements.

The kinship care licensing procedure and standards vary by state (for example, caregiver training, background checks, and a household safety assessment).

What is the Kinship Care Subsidy?

Kinship care subsidies also referred to as kinship care allowance, are funds received by the state paid to the kinship caregiver to help with the expenses of raising the child.

Keeping children out of foster care saves the state tens of millions of dollars every year, and evidence shows that it is often better for children.

Kinship care children have a reduced likelihood of behavioral issues and are less likely to migrate between families than children placed with strangers in foster care.

Because of the number of transfers that foster children go through, they might fall into a negative circle of increasing behavior, school failure, and involvement with criminal enforcement.

Most states provide the kinship caregiver with a monthly subsidy to care for the child to prevent the kinship caregiver from being burdened by the responsibility of caring for the child.

Some sponsored guardianship programs allow guardians to continue receiving payments (subsidies) similar to those they received as foster parents in formal kinship care.

This permits children to have long-term family bonds while still allowing guardians to keep their monthly benefits.

In subsidized guardianship, there is some ongoing involvement of the child welfare agency, although it is significantly less than in foster care. For instance, caregivers may be asked to complete annual forms.

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Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.