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.