What You Need to Know About Adopting a Relative

I confess that I hadn’t paid much attention in my adoption research to adopting a relative until my sister adopted her great-niece. When she and her husband got a call that their great-niece was being removed from her home, they agreed to foster her. Eventually, it was determined that staying in their care should be a permanent solution and they adopted her. 

Though this is not how people typically seek to build their family, it’s a situational reality for many and is considered to be in the best interest of a child finding themselves in a less than desirable situation. 


What is kinship adoption?

Adopting a relative is commonly referred to as kinship adoption. Social workers will seek out a family member for placement first before placing a child in a foster care situation where they don’t know anyone. Though in some instances, family members may have not met the child previously due to location, etc. There are many reasons that a relative may get temporary and even permanent custody of a child. There is a difference between legal guardianship and adoption. If the birth parents don’t consent to their child being adopted but are unable to care for them legally, an adult may remain a legal guardian as opposed to an adoptive parent. However, if those rights have been terminated permanently, there is the option to adopt. 

Read more about adoption and guardianship here. 

Under What Circumstances Would you Adopt a Relative?

In some instances, a person has passed away and has left their child in the custody of a family member who can choose to adopt that child legally. If a situation is deemed unsafe for a child or if their parent or parents are incarcerated, social services will seek a kinship placement to allow a child to have a more stable home environment while potentially still working towards reunification. Click here to read about support for kinship places of children of incarcerated adults. Another sort of kinship adoption is to stepchild adoption which follows the same procedures as adoption, but with less of a cost.

How do you Legally Adopt a Relative?

Likely this is not something you are seeking to do and is something that is presented to you in times of need. The process is similar if not exactly the same depending on the situation of a foster care adoption. You’ll still have to go to court for the legal proceedings, but a social worker, who has been assigned to the child will help with forms, and paperwork, and keep you informed about what you need to do and know. Home visits can be a part of this process as well dependent on the situation. Each situation is different and will have different procedures depending on the child, his or her needs, and state requirements. 

Learn more about adopting a relative here.

No adoption is trauma-free for a child, and adopting a family member can come with many challenges and unique scenarios. If you know someone who is fostering a family member, here are some ways that you can lend support.