Deciding to adopt a child into a family is a serious undertaking; one hopes it will bring great happiness for many years. While adoption laws vary from state to state, the process is always a lengthy one, with the applicant needing to meet many detailed requirements before being qualified to adopt. Among them are:
* Providing a thorough family and social history;
* Being physically and mentally healthy
* Demonstrating financial stability;
* Showing moral integrity, with no significant criminal background history:
* Demonstrating other factors that the state or agency believes are relevant to the adoption.
At an increased pace, grandparents are petitioning courts to adopt their own grandchildren. This is occurring as result of the incarceration of one or both parents, substance abuse issues the parent(s) are dealing with, or as a consequence of domestic violence. In fact, more than 2.6 million children are living with grandparents, relatives, or close family friends without either of their parents in the home. (1) Approximately 7.6 million children live in households headed by a grandparent or other relative. (2)
As long as they are not explicitly ruled out as being unsuitable as adoptive parents, many states give priority rights to relatives, including grandparents, to adopt their own relatives. A case in point, In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of J.L. et al., (3) was recently decided in Minnesota.
Following a difficult history when the children's mother and father were both living with the grandmother, R.S., a district court found that R.S. "was previously unable to protect the children from being exposed to domestic abuse and drug abuse." However, R.S. was not the subject of, nor a party to, the underlying Child in Need of Protection or Services matter. When R.S. later sought to adopt her grandchildren, the agency that completed the home study noted the "grandmother's love for her grandchildren and stated grandmother's strengths were her willingness to uproot her own life and seek outside resources to care for her grandchildren." But the agency was concerned about R.S.'s "relationship with mother and identified issues grandmother needed to address, including development of a support system, creation of an action plan that protects the children, and outside assistance for herself." Accordingly, the children were placed in foster care. When that family eventually sought to adopt the children, the county failed to send a notice...