The Pros and Cons of Relative Adoption

Pro:  Keeping a child within their biological family

I listed this first because I believe that this is the biggest pro of relative adoption (also known as "kinship adoption").  Roots, family and kin are so important to adopted children.  It is a child's right to be with their kin if it is possible. 

Knowing where you come from should never be underestimated nor should a child's knowledge that the family he was born into wanted them to stay part of the family.  Many adoptees believe that there is no good reason for adoption even amongst relatives, but I disagree.  Adoption, as it is currently practiced, is the best form of permanence currently available for children.   I didn't say I liked the way it was practiced, but its permanence is something I do like. 

Con:  Visitation and contact is not guaranteed

Just because a child is being raised by an aunt and uncle or a grandmother, there is no guarantee that there will be any form of contact.  Once the adoption is finalized, visitation and contact is completely decided by the relative adoptive parent(s).  Check with an attorney in your state to see if open adoption agreements are honored by the law.  In most states, they are not.

Pro:  Adoptive parents get to make decisions about child's welfare

The pro side of not being forced into visitation and contact with certain family members who are dysfunctional is that the Court will not force you.  Under the law, you are seen as the biological parents once the adoption is finalized.  If drunk grandpa won't stop saying inappropriate things to the child, like any parent, you can decide drunk grandpa won't be around the child any longer.  Adoption allows parents to act like parents without the worry that they will be hauled into court for every decision they make (like in divorce court).

Con:  Family roles change or become confusing

This is one area that my family underestimated.  We were warned by the social worker about this, but you never really know how this will play out until the adoption is finalized.  There are dual roles in relative adoption.  You could be aunt and mom.  You could be dad and grandpa.  You could be uncle and brother.  People worry that it is confusing for the child, but I have found that not to be true so far in our family.  It's more confusing for the adults who get their roles confused. Am I grandma or great grandma? Am I really mom or should I tell the child I am her aunt as well?  In our family, we have been honest as questions are brought up by our daughter. So far she has taken it all in stride.\

Pro:  Name change

This is true in any adoption -- not just relative adoption. The adoptive parent(s) may keep the child's original name or can change the child's name if this is a decision that the parents believe is in the child's best interest.  Many adult adoptees see their name being changed as a con and will, as adults, legally change their name back to their original name. 

Con:  an amended birth certificate

An amended birth certificate will be issued with the adoptive parent(s) names and the original birth certificate with biological parents names will be sealed by the state.  A majority of states will not allow the adoptee a copy of his/her original birth certificate. This is true for step-parent adoptions too. I urge all adoptive parents to get involved in adoptee rights and change these horrendous, discriminatory laws.

Pro:  The amended birth certificate allows for privacy and will allow the child to go through school without the curious public asking questions about the child's name. 

Pro and Con:  Family relationships change forever.  

I believe in our case, that we protected our daughter from a life of dysfunction, neglect and pain.  She gets to be a happy kid, with her biological kin and know she is loved.  Whenever i think about the con of losing her mother (our family member), although completely unexpected, I have to say it was worth the price.  It's sad and we didn't know we would be losing her at the time the adoption was finalized, but it is the way it is.  This may not be true for every relative adoption.  Maybe you will lose more than one family member.  Maybe your entire family will turn on you for doing what you believe is right. 

If you are raising your sister's child, there will likely be resentment by your sister.  Your mother may consider your child to be your sister's child.  Your father may favor your sister's subsequent kids.  Family dynamics are unique in each family and will be played out in a unique way post-adoption.  Just be prepared for the these types of situations ahead of time and get a good family therapist if you need help.

We all walk a different path and can only come to our own conclusions about family, but understand that family relationships will be changed forever after a relative adoption-- for the good and the bad.


  1. Lynn, as a friend of Sherry's, I could offer trying to post your DNA paternal findings, if possible, on, DNA. It might connect you to a surname if there is a family group/s that match your data. For example, it has debunked some researchers connection to a specific name if there was a break in the paternal line and the child was related to another group. This is helpful to confirm lineage as well as medical history, and might help for adoptees. If there is a male sibling or relative, it is easier, however, maybe there will be enough DNA information with some of their tests. You can also write a simple 'query' with your known facts for a location or family name on Best of luck in your search!

  2. We just completed our relative adoption. I really hammered all of my family to be on board if I was going to do this. It has been pretty good so far. We have only lost one relative in the process. We have also had a great time with acceptance by my husband's family. We have even made some connections with bio mom's family.
    It's not always easy but I cannot imagine my life without these wonderful kids.

  3. May name is Valerie and I am adopting my 7 year old cousin who has been with me for 2 years in kinship foster care. Her mother is and will be in prison for a long time. Our family has been nothing but unsupportive, critical and hurtful. My son and I have embraced our new life with this little girl, It has not been easy and mistakes have been made on both sides but it is so worth it and I am happy I was blessed enough to be able to say yes and change the life of my son and I for her. She is such a wonderful little girl and I pray and aim to make sure that the dysfunction of the rest of our family does not harm her. She is happy, well adjusted and looking forward to being adopted.

    1. I'm sorry to hear your family has been unsupportive; however, that may change in the future as they begin to accept the situation. I wish you the best!

  4. I am a 47 yr old grandma that has raised my granddaughter since 6mths. Her mother (my biological)daughter signed over rights to us her parents and she doesn't know the father. What does my 24 yr old son call her? His sister or niece?

    1. That would probably depend on what you personally decide is best for your family. Biologically your son is an uncle. Legally, he is a brother. If you (hopefully) plan to be honest in the future, you could acknowledge both roles. I would recommend finding out who the father is before the child gets older. If you need help, genetic genealogy can help (Ancestry, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA). Best wishes.

    2. I adopted my nephew's twins. I have two grown children and they are referred to as siblings. The twins are only 3 at this point but they know that they are adopted and that they have first parents and other siblings.

  5. I have a question or maybe a few lol ,I'd be greatful for any advic, opinions or personal experiences on this husband and I have been raising our paternal niece for most of her life .We initially were granted gaurdianship at 6 weeks old after mom left the baby in our care for weeks on end without contact and we feared for her safety in the mothers care due to drug use ,poor care and not seeing a proper attachment.long story short mom was given a reunification plan and followed it the baby was back in mom's custody at seven months of age .We felt hopeful mom had learned from this and done some maturing and would be OK ,we were wrong in less thanthree months mom was leaving the child again in our care and also Neglectful we provided all the baby's needs even in mom's careand she lived in our home 3-4 days a week throughout the year mom had custody back.within the we were forced to take emergency gaurdianship again when the mother found baby unresponsive and failed to call for help . Investigation discovered foul conditions of the home and baby appeared to have been overdosed on cough medicine also drugs were in the home within the child's reach accessable to her.she was one at that time we since have had permanent gaurdianship issued after mom failed to comply with court orders ,drug screens and reunification plan during the first year as we enter the third year of guardianship (not including the first as an infant) mom whom has only had supervised visitation and when she shows up stays less than an hour once a week , suddenly petitioned the court for reunification and return of custody! Of course we didn't anticipate that and had already filed for TPR and adoption .This child has bonded with our family as her own she has been here her whole life and be it not typical she has always called us mom and dad and our sons are her three brothers she is the middle child.she hasn't seen any of moms family regularly,only maybe five occasions the grandmother has come to a visit with mom's sister other than those occasions she has not seen ANy of moms family dispite my many offers for visits in the has never paid any support or provided anything for her ,dads incarcerated on 8 yr sentence he has only seen child twice since birth she was less than 2 months old .He has agreed to an adoption however mom contests it .We are worried now .We feel the best place for our daughter/niece is here.moms had two more children since under two yrs old and has been found guilty of abuse and neglect with them last year she followed a plan to keep them shortly after DHS closed her case she went back to the same behavior as a parent .Her own family has written and asked us to keep our girl safe and not allow mom unsupervised contact so we are afraid .My questions are has anyone had similar experiences if so was the adoption granted ? Does mom have a shot at reunification this late into this situation? Can our little girl be removed now and given to a mother she doesn't know and leave her entire history with us to never see us again? How can I support our position in adoption because mom showed no interest in raising her till now after we petitioned for adoption.its not fair to the children involved who love each other as siblings of four years.i need advice , reassurance etc please

    1. It sounds like you need a really good family law attorney. If you don't already have one, get referrals and start interviewing them. Best wishes.

  6. Just wondering how your situation ended or if it has?


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