Relative Adoption

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There are several factors to consider in relative adoptions:

  • Adoption laws are generally state laws and can differ substantially from one state to another.
  • In light of the differences in state adoption laws, the following is general information for your consideration. There is no substitute for advice from a competent licensed adoption attorney in your area who is familiar with the legal intricacies. (To find an adoption attorney, visit the Directory of Professionals.)
  • "Relative adoptions" are not the same as "stepparent adoptions." {For information, see Stepparent Adoption.)

In most states, relative adoptions are treated somewhat less formally than non-relative ("stranger") adoptions. They may require only an abbreviated homestudy, or none at all. For this preferential treatment to apply, the adoption must fit the definition of a relative adoption under state law. Most state laws define "relative" by degree of relatedness. For example, Arizona adoption law defines a "relative" as "uncle, aunt, adult sibling, grandparent or great-grandparent of the child of the whole or half-blood or by marriage or adoption." Not fitting in this general definition are cousins of any degree or children of nieces or nephews. You will need to consult your attorney or the specific law in your state.

General Considerations

  1. Just as with any adoption, there must be a proper termination of the parental rights of both the child's biological parents. New birth certificates are issued, and adoption records are sealed in accordance with state laws.
  2. Adopting a close relative's child may be the best solution for the child, but it can cause a radical change in the dynamics of your relationship with that relative. These types of relationships have the potential to become strained or severely damaged due to questions of "quasi co-parenting" and exactly who is the child's parent. The reality is that this dynamic will be different for everyone involved, including all family members, and extending to other children the biological parents may have now or in the future. You will be confronted with questions of relatedness (is your child their cousin? sibling? aunt? uncle?), among others. Can this be done? Yes. Will it be a snap? No. The openness encouraged in adoptions today will help communication with all parties, and those experienced with relative adoptions strongly recommend counseling before and after the adoption whenever possible.
  3. Depending on the child's age and the circumstances of the adoption, talking to your child about the adoption may involve additional complexities due to previous and current relationships, death and grief, disappointments, and human failings. Do seek out support groups and educational books and tapes.

Additional Resources

Relative Adoption Forum
Grandparent Adoption Forum
Book: Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child

For more information specific to Grandparent Adoption and more options available to those who are caring for related children, including adoption, guardianship, legal custody, and open adoptions, see Legal Options for Relative Caregivers.

Related Articles

Keeping the Family Tree Intact
Encyclopedia: Family Preservation
Adopting My Nephew: African-American and an Adopting Parent
Library of Articles on this Topic

Visitor Comments (5)
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.
Guest - 5 months ago
0 0 3
Iam guardian of my niece who is mentally retarded and she has a son, who i take care of. sometimes she is there for him but most of the time i have him.. i want to know how can i adopt him.. #1
Diana - 2 months ago
0 0 1
I have a 14 year old niece that has been in the system for about 4 years because her mother is not able to take care of her or the rest of the children. She has ran away away a few times from the foster parents because she wish to come live with me but the social workers in new York are making it hard to make it happen and now my niece has ran away again. I need information In how to be able to adopt my niece due that I live in Michigan and she is in New York with out the case workers making it hard for me and my niece. WE NEED HELP #2
veronica - 8 months ago
0 0 3
My comment is in the form of a question about adoption. How do I go about adopting my own grandchild who lives in Trinidad.She is now 15years old. #3
Guest - 3 months ago
0 0 2
I am guardian of my Nephew,My Sister is Dead 5 years ago and the Father of my nephew we dont have contact since my nephew 3 years old tell now.My Nephew is 10 years old now.My Husband And Me Have Plan to Adopt him.My Nephew still not register in NSO #4
Orange County cruput - 1 month ago
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I have a 2nd degree niece that was tooken from parents. I was able to take her for 7 months then was asked if we would adopt we said yes, then they decided that she had to be with her brother in foster care so Orange County took her from us even after we said we would adopt the bother to. Ssw refuse to let us see her or talk with her. Claim she doesn't want to talk with us. Now the brother is going to go to his bio father and his sister has no bio family to be with. When she was with us we tryed to get her counseling but they said she didn't need it. After a month in the foster home mother said she was put on 3 different type of drugs and seeing a counselor 3 times a week reason why mother only gets one visit during the week. Mother has done all her plans 5 times and is still be told to do them again. #5
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