People adopt relatives for a variety of reasons. One common instance when people adopt relatives is when the parents are deceased and one must take the child into their care. Another form of relative adoption occurs when the parents are unable to take care of their children and the state must intervene. In this case, relatives are sometimes able to adopt the child. There are a few ways in which relative adoption differs from regular adoption.

What is a “Relative”?

Most state laws define “relative” by degree of relatedness. For example, Arizona adoption law defines a “relative” as “uncle, aunt, adult sibling, grandparent or great-grandparent of the child of the whole or half-blood or by marriage or adoption.” Not fitting in this general definition are cousins of any degree or children of nieces or nephews.

Ease of relative adoption

Relative adoption is often easier than adopting a stranger. This is true because since the familial relationship is already present between the future adoptive parent and child, the state system and court system may make the process a bit easier and less lengthy in this situation. This is especially true when both parents are deceased and it is a decision between sending the child into the child welfare system or placing them with a loving, known relative.

Home study may not be required

For most adoptions, a home study is a prerequisite to placing a child within a new home. A home study is where a social worker comes to the house on several occasions and makes careful notations of the living environment. The results of the home study will help determine if the house is fit for a child. The home study will also help determine if the parents are able to provide a good living environment for the adopted child. With relative adoptions, a home study may be much more relaxed or not even required. Whether or not a home study is required with this type of adoption is dependent upon the laws of the state in which the prospective adoptive parents live.

Biological parents may be more likely to accept relative adoptions

Relative adoptions provide a good option for parents who can no longer care for their child yet wish the child to go to someone who they know and trust.

In the case where the biological parents are living yet deemed unfit to raise their children, they may be more likely to consent to termination of parental rights and agree to a relative adoption than with any other type of adoption. First, by allowing a relative to adopt their child, the biological parents know the individual who will be raising their offspring. Secondly, if one allows a relative to adopt their child they may be more likely to visit with the child throughout their life than if the child were to be adopted by an unknown family.

** Relative adoptions are not the same as stepparent adoptions.