By Ashley Reed, CLSW Attorney-At-Law
Why would anyone delay his or her retirement and step back into the role of raising children? The answer is simple for grandparents raising their grandchildren: the children are worth it. The reality of grandparents raising their grandchildren is becoming an all too familiar family dynamic in today’s society. Many may hear this and think of what the grandparents are giving up and all the things that had to go wrong in a family’s life for this to happen. But in reality, there is so much good happening for these grandparents and grandchildren. Giving a child the gift of security in knowing they will have a stable home that can’t be disrupted on a parent’s whim is invaluable to the emotional development of a child.
I was recently in court representing a family for adoption. A grandmother was adopting her two granddaughters who are both in elementary school. The granddaughters had lived in their grandmother’s home, on and off with their mother, their whole life. Five years ago, their mother left the girls there and had not returned to care for them. Unfortunately, both of the girl’s parents suffer from mental health issues and drug addiction. Living with “grannie” is the one constant the girls have known throughout their short life. When the Judge asked the girls if they knew why they were in court that day, both of their faces just lit up. They very clearly told the Judge that “grannie is going to adopt us so we can stay with her forever”. No matter how much she has assured them in the past that she would keep them safe, there was clearly the lingering question of what would happen if mom or dad showed up again. To hear our client rave about the positive characteristics of both of her granddaughters was also a welcome reminder to me of the love she was pouring into them every day. She doesn’t see these girls as preventing her from retirement. She sees them as rays of sunshine that add so much to her world. She just kept repeating that these girls are worth it. We left court that day and the sense of relief in all of them was evident from the hugs, smiles and literal skip in the girls’ steps. This sense of joy and relief is not an uncommon occurrence when working with grandparents and grandchildren through adoption and it is one of the reasons why those of us in the field love to help these families. The road leading to our office is never an easy one for the families, but the smiles and the skip as they walk home together seems to make it all worth it.
I am fortunate to be able to work with many families who are experiencing the benefits of grandparents adopting their grandchildren. The choice for a grandparent to adopt typically comes at the end of a long line of steps and decisions for the family. The biggest hurdle for families can often be the fact that parents’ rights have to be terminated before the adoption can be completed. As a parent (and as a grandparent), it is understandable that to permanently change the relationship between your child and their children is a very difficult decision to make. Ultimately, the decision to adopt a grandchild gives that child a sense of long-term stability and strengthens the bond between grandchild and grandparent. While the formality of a final adoption order severs one familial tie, it also provides the grandparent with the knowledge that they are now in control and can care for their grandchild in the best way possible.
Adopting a grandchild puts grandparents in the role of parent, allowing them to make more decisions for their grandchildren without restrictions. Educational decisions and medical decisions affecting grandchildren’s health and well-being are just a few examples. Adoption also allows grandparents to have a say in who will care for the child upon their passing. It allows grandparents to pass along many benefits to their grandchild that would not otherwise be possible including insurance benefits, social security benefits, college grants and scholarships, legal rights to estate issues in the future, and more.
The Center for Law and Social Work was founded as a resource for grandparents raising grandchildren. We provide legal services for adoption and wrap around social work services to ensure a smooth transition for your forever family. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to set up an appointment.