Stepping out of the box to pursue adoption for my grandchild
No grandparent ever expects to be put in the position of raising their grandchild. By default, in this country, it seems to be when parents can no longer raise their children, their grandparents are put in the position to do so.
When Parents have to assign guardians for their children in the event something were to happen to them like death, rarely do they choose their ailing parents. So why are grandparents the ones who need to step in?
When my daughter told me she was pregnant at the age of 22, I told her straight up that she wasn’t able to raise a child and that I wouldn’t raise the child, should she not be able too. She chose to have the child anyway.
Due to drug addiction and homelessness, I stepped in and gained guardianship of my grandchild. I had hoped that my daughter would get her life back on track along with her partner, but over time I realized this was not going to happen. So now what? I had just finished raising my own five children, two of which had special needs. I decided that I would attempt to look at adoption. I would need to be an active part of my grandchild life because it just so happens, I adore her.
First, I spoke with an adoption attorney to find out if adoption was even possible. I had guardianship of my grandchild, but I wasn’t her parent. The answer was yes, adoption was possible. I had gone online and looked at some prospective parents, but my attorney connected me to an adoption agency he was comfortable working with.
I was presented with three families from the agency. I reviewed each bio. My granddaughter had just turned three years old, and I was worried that this might be hard to find parents that would accept an older child.
My attorney and I had drawn up the post-adoption agreement for an open adoption that explained in detail the amount of visitation I needed and the amount of contact. I wanted weekly facetime, bi-weekly visits, and visits twice a year with our extended family. I wanted to remain her grandmother in every sense of the word, going to performances, and being included in holidays.
We started by talking with each family over the phone to get to know each other. The first family wasn’t interested because of her age; they wanted a newborn. I decided to move forward with the 2nd family and chose not to move forward with the 3rd family. The second family had two children, and their youngest son was also adopted at birth. I loved this family, things progressed nicely, and they were very open to including me. We got to the transition stage, my granddaughter had spent a couple of nights, and then they backed out. Something inside me knew that they were backing out before they even told me. This failed adoption was very hard for my granddaughter and me, but we pulled through; it was kind of like losing friends at this point.
We then moved ahead with the 3rd family. To give you more details, a grandparent pursuing adoption is a new territory. Adoptions agencies don’t have a playbook on how to do an open adoption with a grandparent who is perfectly capable of raising a child. I was doing an excellent job with my granddaughter; the fact was that I was just tired, and I was ready to focus on myself a bit. Because I was a capable adult doing well with raising my grandchild, I was kind of left to my own devices on how to transition her to a new family. The 3rd family backed out too, after six months of playdates and the occasional overnight.
Both mothers of families 2 and 3 ultimately struggled with my grandchild age and her attachment to me; they saw me as a treat, although I was very supportive. I was hoping to be seen as an asset, someone who loved their child as they did. Many people who are pursuing adoption are under the perception that they will be rescuing the child, an unwanted pregnancy/child. This perception wasn’t the case with us. She wasn’t mine to raise; I was trying to advocate for my granddaughter and give her what I thought was best. It had never occurred to me that I might be what was best for her.
“If you love someone unconditionally and with your whole heart, then you will do what is best for them, not you. I have never learned a harder lesson than giving my child up for adoption, and I probably never will.”
I was ready to give up. I wanted my granddaughter to have parents, not grandparents, for parents. Children need both parents and grandparents. I didn’t want my grandchild to feel different because other children would ask questions. I didn’t want her living under the curtain of the choices her biological parents made, because I was always going to have to answer those questions. I didn’t want her to feel like her parents were some reflection of her.
The agency reached out to me again and said that they wanted to try one more time. This time they would assign me my social worker who would pre-screen the families and only present me with the ones she thought were best.
Having my social worker ended up being fantastic. She was so helpful and presented me with amazing families. She supported my grandchild and me through the entire process. We chose a new family, and we moved ahead. Right after we started the adoption process, COVID-19 happened. What did COVID-19 mean for the adoption? It told everything was rushed, from our initial meeting to how quickly the transition occurred.
We met, and we got along perfectly. The adoptive family said everything I needed to hear, me and my family would be included; they would embrace all of us. This news was such a relief to me. I wouldn’t move ahead with anyone unless I knew for a fact our family would be included. I knew in my heart of hearts that my grandchild needed to know her biological family; she already had an established relationship with all of us; I just wanted her to have parents and us as grandparents.
My granddaughter transitioned beautifully, she was calling them mom and dad, but after about five months, something felt off. The adoptive parents weren’t honoring our adoption agreement, COVID-19 was allowing for more contact, but we stopped progressing to what was intended with our post-adoption understanding. They weren’t respecting the spirit of the agreement, we were to become extended family.
It was time for mediation to figure out what was going on. We sat down together, and they made it clear, they wanted to change the agreement and did not want anything to do with my extended family, and they wanted a lot less of me. We hadn’t had a chance to keep our relationship growing due to COVID-19, and I think they got used to me not being around, and me becoming involved again scared them. I was involved, but I was also trying to allow them to become her parents. I have never done anything as hard as this transition, after caring for my grandchild for two years. I missed my her more than I could have ever imagined, and I questioned myself and my choice regularly.
My granddaughter has been back with me for over a month now, and I am officially adopting her. Part of me feels like I failed her, and I wonder what this was all for. I needed to find out if grandparents are just supposed to step in and raise their grandkids so that they don’t end up in foster care. I had hoped that I could give her better parents than the ones she was born too. I had hoped she could have parents and grandparents that adored her, who worked together like family for her benefit. I had hoped that I would wake up from the nightmare; and that my daughter was no longer a drug addict and could take care of her child so that I could be what I was intended to be, her grandmother.
I haven’t given up hope for other families for adoption of grandchildren. There is a real need for children who are a bit older that have been dealt a bad had. Our foster care system is overloaded, and many grandparents are not capable of stepping into to raise their grandchildren. Even though my attempt failed, I believe it was a viable option and can work for other grandparents.
Today, I share stories with my granddaughter about her birth mother and father, and how she ended up with Nana. I am ready to raise her and help her get through the shitty hand she has been dealt. I couldn’t love her more; I adore her. I do feel like I have been robbed of the grandmother perks that I should have had. I can’t spoil her anymore; I have to raise a responsible person and take care of her needs. None of that is her fault and probably isn’t my addicted daughter’s fault either. I am learning to accept the things that I can not change all for the benefit of this little being who has become the center of my world.