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Adopting Your Grandchild or Relative

A closed adoption is frequently the method employed by many people who seek to adopt a grandchild or other relative. In a closed adoption, the entire process is closed and sealed. If your child that you are adopting has been physically abused or if your child's biological family has a criminal history, then you may want to choose a closed adoption to protect your child and your family moving forward. There is no telling what can happen in the future when it comes to a dangerous group of people learning personal information about you, your child, and your family. 

Certainly, it would be normal to have some concern over how much information you will be required to provide to the biological family of your adoptive child during the adoption process. Certainly, many people go through with the adoption and have no idea the sort of requirements that are involved or the hoops that you must jump through as far as the process is concerned. Once they become involved in an adoption families can learn about the actual requirements and expectations as far as getting an adoption off the ground. Many people who otherwise would have been interested in adopting a child may instead turn away from the process due to the degree of information that must be shared.

Don’t focus on the blame-game

A biological family of a child who is being adopted by you and your family may be experiencing a range of emotions regarding the adoption. Even if they understand that it is the right thing to do and in the best interests of their child to start the adoption process that doesn't also mean that they won't experience some degree of guilt, shame, or other negative emotion surrounding the adoption process. If you are involved in a closed adoption, then you will not virtually no opportunity to reassure the biological parents that they are doing the right thing. 

Once the adoption is over the biological family will almost undoubtedly miss your child to an extent. This is normal, I think. You can intellectually understand that what you have done is for the best of the child, but it won’t make your heart sing with joy. You will miss the part of your life that was filled by the child. For this reason, many biological parents will simply choose not to see the child again after giving him or her up for adoption. Seeing that child again may bring back powerful memories of the adoption and cause them grief. A closed adoption allows them to manage the adoption case from their end during the case itself and then does not require any additional contact afterward. 

Control for you is a good thing when so much is outside your control

Less history, more mystery is a slogan that many couples adhere to when it comes to knowledge of their spouse's past dating or romantic exploits. These folks would rather not know about the past dating habits of their spouse rather than know what happened and then have doubts about the marriage. The same can be true in adoption. Everyone has their baggage, and the fact is that your child's biological family probably has their fair share, as well. As such you may want to keep that in the background and focus your attention on the child and what you need to do to make the adoption process a successful one for the child and your family. 

In many cases, open adoption means that you and your spouse will not have free reign to determine how to raise your child. An open adoption requires that you sign an agreement with the biological family that says how you are going to coordinate efforts with the biological family to raise the child. This usually means getting input on important decision-making situations from the family, coordinating travel, seeing the other family on holidays, and generally making the child available to the other family. While this may seem like fun or something different at first, think of it as having your extended family stay at your home for Thanksgiving. 

When the in-laws come down for Thanksgiving the first day of having them in the home is sort of a fun novelty at first. However, once the big day has arrived and the food has been eaten, I am willing to bet that you would like to have them leave shortly thereafter so that you can relax a little bit. No matter how much you like your in-laws there is no debating that having in-laws around makes life more hectic and less casual than you would like. We can see a situation develop like this regarding open adoption cases in Texas. 

In an open adoption, you and the biological family will come up with an adoption agreement that puts the two parties in a position to be able to coordinate visits, share time with the child and allow the families to spend quality time with one another. This is supposed to give the child as big a support system as possible and forces you all to work together to raise a child. Someone once said that it takes a village to raise a child. An open adoption puts that theory to use by having you and the biological family put aside your differences and work to raise a child together as a team. 

In many ways, this may seem awkward to some of you. Your child is yours, you would say, and you do not want another set of people to have any say in how you raise that child. That's all fine and dandy- the law in Texas would support that. Parents in Texas are given the benefit of the doubt and a presumption that the actions that they take about raising a child are in that child's best interests. This is not true for any other set of people who have a relationship with that child. If you as a parent want to deny another person, contact the child that is allowed absent evidence to rebut the aforementioned presumption. 

With that said, an open adoption puts you, your spouse, and the biological parents in a position where they will need to coordinate the time that they have with the child. Biological parents in some situations go to every t-ball game, school event, or graduation that the child has. While there is an adoption agreement the families tend to be close enough that they coordinate events, holidays, and other activities just like close friends would. For many of you reading this blog post, an arrangement like this sounds perfect. For others of you, it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. This is especially true after you have gone through so much trouble just to adopt the child and bring him or her into your home. 

It can also be confusing for an adopted child to be in a position where he or she will be spending a great deal of time in the future with their biological family. Establishing an identity and being able to settle into a routine with your family is part of the challenge of adopting a child. Surely, your child will have questions about their origins, their biological family, and why he or she was adopted. Those are questions that you will likely need to answer after discussing the adoption with your child for the first time. Some children have many questions about this subject while others have fewer questions- at least at first. Your job will be to answer those questions carefully and truthfully. Doing so will help your child feel more comfortable with your family and with you as a parent. 

Having a second family in the picture can complicate the perspective of your child to an extent. While many people want to be able to help raise a child with a biological family, still others would prefer a more traditional outlook where it is only you and your spouse who would do the raising of the child. For that reason, there are multiple types of adoption processes. A closed adoption may allow for a more traditional post-adoption life for your child in terms of having a specific family unit to call “home” rather than multiple family units to rely upon. This is not necessarily a reflection of the adoption processes but more so a reflection of cultural and familial traditions being different across cultures.

Should you talk to your child about the adoption?

I think some parents in your position will hope that the discussion about adoption never has to be had with their children. This will help them avoid difficulties and awkward conversations that would otherwise need to be had. I suppose the thought process is along the lines of avoiding that conversation until a later date. However, most children are extremely curious about their past. Unless you are adopting a child as an infant, the child almost certainly will have memories of their birth parents and their life before the adoption. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before questions start to be asked about adoption and its origins. 

From that point forward it is up to you how to address those questions. Every family is different, and every family’s circumstances are different. For that reason, there is no one size fits all rule when it comes to raising a child. If you want to share every detail about the adoption with your child, then that is up to you. On the other hand, if you want to avoid the conversation entirely then that is also up to you. You know what is best for your child when it comes to this conversation. There is no one size fits all rule for discussing an adoption. You will need to decide when it is appropriate to discuss that topic and when to initiate a discussion like this with your child. 

To not cause any confusion with your child it may be best to address this topic with him or her at an early age. Even if he or she does not fully understand what is happening when you talk to him or her, the child will surely understand the tone and tenor of the conversation. Whatever you decide to say, determining how to have the conversation and confirming feelings of love and support for your child are the most important parts of the talk that you will need to have. A child who knows that he or she is loved has a good platform from which to launch themselves as far as becoming adults. The children who struggle with the transition into teenage and adult years are often those who feel like they are not loved or not understood. Being honest means sharing your love for your children. This is a good place for you to start having this discussion. 

Consider whether an open or closed adoption will assist your child in feeling more stable in their daily life. Some birth parents do a poor job of staying in the lives of their children. A child may be living with a foster family, grandparent, or another person at the outset of an adoption case. With the biological parent so rarely in the picture for a child, it makes little sense to try to allow that parent to have a continued role in the life of the child after the adoption is over. It would be a strange situation for that child to engage in an open adoption where the biological parents are part of an agreement to continue to be in the life of your child even after the divorce- especially since they have not chosen to do so before the adoption occurred. 

Telling your child that their biological parents are going to come over for a visit can put your child in a difficult spot emotionally. It can be a strange experience for the child to be in an environment where their biological and adoptive families are present. This is something that may become more "normal" over time. Or, depending on your child it may not. It is difficult to tell how your child will react to a situation like this. Even if you think the open adoption will work better for you and your spouse, it may not be better for the child. 

How accessible is information in a closed adoption?

If you are going through with an open adoption, then the information available to you and your spouse is greater than in a closed adoption. Medical records and other information will typically be shared with all parties. You and your spouse will have an opportunity to learn not only about the child that you will be adopting but also about the child's family. This may appeal to some families but to others, it may seem unnecessary or like a bit of an overstepping of boundaries. 

Records are typically sealed in a closed adoption. You will not have the right to gain access to medical records or other documents to the same degree that you would be able to in an open adoption. While not having information about medical treatment can be a good thing from a privacy perspective it can be frustrating from the perspective of not being able to learn as much about your child’s medical history and potential problems. If your child has a major medical condition, then this will almost assuredly be made known to you before the adoption process is finalized. However, treatment methods and other tips that a biological family may be able to provide to you about their care will not be. 

In a closed record situation, it not only means medical records but other types of records that may help your child learn more about where he or she comes from. Wanting to learn more about their past does not mean that your child loves you any less. Put yourself in the situation of your child- wouldn’t you want to learn more about your origin situation and your biological family when you learned about being adopted? If for no other reason it may be good for your child to gain some closure. Your child may feel abandoned and without a true home if he or she cannot learn more about their past. 

In the future, if your child wants to be able to meet their biological family then it may be more difficult in a closed adoption than in an open adoption. If you have given your child a different name or the biological family has moved away from the adoption, then it may be hard to coordinate a reunion if one could be set up in the first place.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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