With so many different factors coming into play, the once-rare grandparent adoption of grandchildren has become more common in the U.S. More grandparents become primary caregivers because the parents are unable to do so.
Nearly 3 million American children lived with their grandparents in 2015, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. The number marks a 16% increase from the previous decade and it is a number that has remained high, with the 2021 census reporting that 32.7% of grandparents are responsible for grandchildren under the age of 18.
Reasons why grandparent adoption occurs
A few factors may play into the decision for grandparents to adopt their grandchildren. This frequently helps them to avoid them living in an unstable home with unreliable parents. Here are some of those factors:
- Drug or alcohol addiction: Addicts do not make good parents. More often than not, their focus is on getting high rather than caring for their children. The current opioid crisis has led to a spike in grandparent adoption.
- Mental health challenges: Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may lead to a parent being incapable of fulfilling that important role. Treatment is essential.
- Child abuse, neglect or abandonment: Physical abuse, lack of proper food, clothing and shelter, and failure to provide physical and emotional needs may be all that it takes for someone to lose their parental rights.
- Incarceration: Felony convictions may lead to significant jail time. A parent behind bars is incapable of caring for their kids. The Pew Research Center noted that in 2013, more than 2.7 million children have at least one incarcerated parent. That is nearly 3.6% of all American children.
- Death of a parent: When a parent dies, it brings an assortment of emotional hardships to the children and the surviving parent. Oftentimes the surviving parent does not have the resources or support to be a single parent. In some cases, the late parent may have been the only parent in the child’s life.
- Inexperience as parents: Teen pregnancies lead to young parents, some of whom are not ready to fulfill the parental role.
- Homelessness: A stable home life does not include living in homeless shelters, encampments or on the streets.
- Unemployment and lack of financial resources: Financial stability is necessary. The loss of a job may lead to financial hardship and parents turning to desperate measures.
- Domestic violence: A child raised in a home wrought with domestic violence deserves a safer environment.
A trauma-filled upbringing stacks the odds against your grandchildren from having a solid, stable and loving home environment.
Providing stability and a loving home
As a grandparent, you know your grandchildren need stability. You also know that you and your spouse can provide that stability with a loving home, the deserved attention and the overall support they need.