Increasingly over time we find ourselves helping grandparents with difficult decisions on what steps to take when they have to raise their grandchildren. The other day some controversy was ignited when an Olympic commentator called Simone Biles’ parents her grandparents. So what are they and was the commentator really being insensitive? It turns out that Simone’s maternal grandparents came to a point in their life where they had a tough decision to make – whether they were going to raise their grandchildren and what that relationship would look like going forward. Apparently the facts were, for whatever reason, the natural parents were not fulfilling their role. In their situation they eventually came to the conclusion that the best solution was to adopt their grandchildren. The legal effect of such an adoption is that their legal role changed from grandparent to parent. The biology did not change, but their roles and responsibilities did. Today, more than at any other time in this country’s history, we see this type of decision being made more and more.
What a huge decision that is for any grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, or relative. Many of those faced with this type of decision have already raised their families or have their own families they are raising. Taking on other children means rearranging everyone’s lives and responsibilities. No matter how much you love someone this is a giant step, but what option is there when parents won’t or can’t care for their kids? (Regardless of the reason, whether it be drugs, money, injury, illness, death or any other number of reasons.)
There really are several options when faced with this dilemma and not all of them are mutually exclusive. We often find ourselves counseling individuals about the possibility of adoptions, guardianships, or getting the Children’s Division involved.
There is no cookie cutter solution when it comes to trying to make sure the right decision is made for children whose parents have fallen down on the job. Adoption is the most severe decision when it comes to rearranging and redefining the roles of the family members. An adoption by a grandparent changes grandparents to parents and parents to siblings. This is no easy decision but sometimes it is the best decision for all involved. Sometimes the right decision is guardianship. Guardianship is temporary and thus may be the right decision when, among other reasons, there is hope that the parents can one day return to their natural role. There may even be other options that provide parents with not only reasons to get better, but resources to help on that journey.
If you find yourself facing this dilemma and not sure where to turn, or what options you have, or what options are best for you and your loved ones, give us a call and sit down with one of our attorneys who are experienced in these areas. We understand that grandparents often become parents and the confusion that can arise from the change in those relationships.