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Grandparents as Parents
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over the last 25 years, the number of children being raised by someone other than a parent has increased dramatically, with the vast majority of these children being raised by their grandparents. Between 1990 and 1998, the number of families in grandparent-headed households without either parent present increased by 53 percent, and the 2000 Census placed the total number of children living in a grandparent- or other relative-headed household at 6 million.
Some of the reasons grandparents step into the parenting role include:
Grandparents (and other relatives) are keeping families together and serving as a safety net to keep children out of the formal foster care system; however, many face obstacles not encountered by biological parents, like the inability to
Options for Grandparents
Adoption is one of several legal options for grandparents (options that include guardianship, legal custody and others), and gives grandparents all legal parental rights; however, in order to establish a legal relationship with the children, they must bring a legal proceeding against the parents, one of whom is their child. These proceedings can be lengthy and emotionally difficult for everyone involved. The court must reach conclusions about the fitness of the parents and the "best interests" of the child, and these conclusions can strain family relationships. Keeping the child's welfare as your primary concern will help you make the best decision.
Getting Older, Developing Serious Health Problems
As a grandparent who may be considering adopting one or more grandchildren, you may have questions about your age. Many of the resources for older adopting parents may be helpful to you, but it isn't just your age now that may raise concerns - you may also worry about the children's futures as you become even older, develop serious health problems, or experience financial difficulties that might affect your ability to parent. There are solutions, and although they may be difficult choices to make, being realistic will be of greatest benefit to the child/children.
Once you become the legal parent of your grandchild/ren, you also have the legal right to place the child/children for adoption if you become unable to parent.
Designated adoption (not allowed without the assistance of an agency in all states) means that you identify the family with whom you would like to place the child and you reach an agreement. This type of adoption can be arranged as soon as you feel your ability to parent the children is becoming more than you can handle, or arranged to take place at your death or if you are incapacitated. By planning a designated adoption, the child has the opportunity to meet the family ahead of time and build a relationship with them and, done with the help of a qualified attorney and/or agency, the transition into the new adoptive family would meet legal requirements and proceed smoothly at the time of adoption.
If you choose to arrange an adoption at an earlier time, an open adoption would give the child/children a permanent family and allow ongoing contact with you, maintaing the grandparent relationship.