Can (and Should) a Family Member Adopt My Baby After Delivery?

It seems like the perfect solution: you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and don’t feel ready to parent, so a friend or family member offers to adopt your baby. It’s a win-win situation — your relative is prepared to raise a child, you can continue pursuing your goals, and you will still see your child on a regular basis.

But while kinship adoption may seem ideal on the surface, you may first consider the following factors before giving your child up for adoption to a family member.  

Advantages of Kinship Adoption

There are many reasons why family adoption may be appealing to you, and under the right circumstances, these arrangements can have positive attributes. Some common benefits of relative adoption include:

  • An established sense of trust: Because you already have a personal relationship with the relative who is adopting your baby, you may have fewer concerns about the life and love they will provide for your child. You may have had opportunities to observe them in a parenting role and agree with their parenting style. And if you have a positive relationship with them now, you may feel confident that you will be able to maintain a post-placement relationship with them and your child.
  • More post-placement contact: Depending on your circumstances and your relationship with the adopting family members, relative adoption may give you more opportunities to interact with your child. While you can choose to have an open or semi-open adoption with non-relatives, placing your child with a family member may give you opportunities for more frequent visits, phone calls, and more.
  • Potential to parent later: It is a common question for expectant mothers — if a family member adopts your baby, is there a chance to get your child back? Whether or not you place your child with a relative, adoption is a permanent decision. However, if you feel certain that your situation will improve and you will be ready to parent in the near future, you may be able to arrange a temporary guardianship with a family member. This legal guardianship would give your family member temporary custody of your child while you finish your degree, find a more stable living situation, or otherwise prepare to take over the parenting role.
  • Less conflict with family: If your family does not support your decision to place your baby with unrelated adoptive parents, you may be able to avoid current conflict by placing within your family. However, you should never make your adoption decisions based on what someone else thinks is best; you are the only person who can decide what is best for yourself and your baby. Choosing kinship adoption because you feel pressured to do so can lead to greater conflict and resentment later on.

While there are clearly many positive aspects of relative adoption, it is important to remember that every expectant parent’s situation is different, and every family’s dynamics are different as well. Not every family adoption will involve more post-placement openness, and while it may allow you to avoid family conflicts now, it’s recommended to consider the potential for conflict later on.

Disadvantages of Kinship Adoption

There are several unique challenges that expectant mothers should consider before giving a baby up for adoption to a family member. You should carefully consider the following disadvantages before choosing relative adoption:

  • Parenting disagreements: Family adoption is not co-parenting. When your baby is legally adopted by new parents, you no longer have parental rights for your child. This means that you will have to respect your relative’s parenting style and decisions, even when you disagree. This can be difficult for any placing mother, but it may be especially challenging when you are in frequent contact with the adoptive parents. These conflicts can damage your relationship with family members, and can also serve as a painful reminder that you do not have the same parent-child relationship with your child that they do.
  • Potential shifts in post-placement contact: Adoption relationships often change and evolve over time. While these changes are natural, they can be difficult in kinship adoptions, especially when both parties cannot agree on the type and amount of post-placement contact. Shifts in post-placement contact not only affect the adopting relatives, birth mother and child, but also other family members, who may be caught in the middle. While adoption agencies may provide post-placement support and correspondence services to help manage these issues, families who complete independent kinship adoptions are often left to navigate these challenges on their own.
  • Role confusion: If you place your baby for adoption with your parents, he or she is biologically your child, but legally your brother or sister. Biologically, your siblings will be the child’s aunts and uncles, but legally, they will be his or her siblings as well. And your other children will be the child’s biological siblings, but his or her legal nieces and nephews. If each family member’s roles, responsibilities and expectations are not clearly defined from the beginning, all of these different connections will be confusing for everyone involved. The result may be that your child doesn’t truly know where he or she fits into your family.
  • Constant reminder of loss: For some birth parents, it is difficult to be reminded of their adoption decision on a regular basis. If you plan to complete the kinship adoption process, consider how you will feel at every holiday and family gathering, and whether you will struggle to feel a sense of closure when you are constantly reminded of your grief and loss.
  • Feelings of judgment: Some birth parents who choose relative adoption feel that family members judge them for not being able to parent their child. They may feel guilty for not being able to help share the responsibilities for their child, or they may feel that other family members scrutinize their post-placement relationship with their child.
  • Future family relationships: If you currently have other children or believe you may have other children in the future, you need to consider the effect your adoption decision will have on those children and their relationships with one another. For example, if your child is adopted by your parents, consider how you will explain his or her relationship to your future children. Will they consider him or her a sibling, aunt or uncle? Also consider how it will affect the adopted child to see your parent-child relationship with your future children. Just as it may be difficult for you to process your feelings of grief and loss when you see your child interacting with his or her adoptive parents, it may be difficult for your child to find closure when he or she sees you interacting with your other children.

Every woman’s situation is different, and you are the only person who can determine whether family adoption is right for you and your baby. However, it is important to consider all of your options, and the pros and cons of each, before making your decision.

If you think you may be more comfortable making an adoption plan with a non-relative, there are hundreds of waiting adoptive families who have been pre-screened and are excited and ready to adopt. If you are hesitant about placing your child for adoption with a family you do not know, consider the following:

  • With American Adoptions, every waiting family has undergone an extensive home study and background checks to ensure they are safe and ready to adopt.
  • If you would like to get to know the adoptive family before placement, your adoption specialist will help you set up phone calls, emails, and even in-person visits.
  • Each of our families creates an adoptive family video profile, which gives you a glimpse into their lives and their genuine excitement to become parents.
  • You are in control of your adoption plan, including the type of post-placement relationship you want to have with your child and the adoptive family. This means that even if you choose unrelated adoptive parents, you can remain an important part of your child’s life.

Most importantly, remember that when you make an adoption plan for your baby, you will be forever connected to him or her and the adoptive family. If you choose to have a relationship with them, they will become your family, too. 

If you are considering family adoption for your baby, you may speak with an adoption specialist to discuss your situation and ensure it is truly the right choice for you and your baby. For more information about the relative adoption process or our waiting families, call 1-800-ADOPTION.

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