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What is Kinship Adoption?

Grandparents sitting arm-in-arm holding a baby.An unplanned pregnancy can be a very difficult time, especially for birth parents who may not be ready to raise a child on their own. In these situations, adoption can be an excellent option. However, there are situations when birth parents are not ready to raise a child, but are also not ready to see a stranger raise their child. In these situations, kinship adoption has become a popular option.

What is Kinship Adoption?

Kinship adoption is when a family member adopts a child. This type of adoption certainly has its advantages, but it also creates a complex and often contentious family dynamic that can sometimes be problematic.

Advantages of Kinship Adoption

  • Keep the Child in the Family: “Some women feel that it’s best for the baby to keep him in the family,” says Meghan Cohen, an adoption professional. “The child grows up with the family and siblings,” adds Cohen. 
  • Established Relationship: The child, adoptive parents, and biological parents already have a personal relationship. There is already a degree of trust between biological and adoptive parents. 
  • Close Proximity: Birth parents are able to continue living their lives while their child is still within close proximity, and “the child has ongoing direct contact with biological parents,” says Cohen. Emotionally, this is a tremendous benefit for both parent and child.
  • Family History: Child and adoptive parents have easy access to “family medical and social history,” says Cohen.

Another alternative to kinship adoption is kinship caregivers. This is a much less formal arrangement (does not necessarily require any legal action) where family members other than the birth parents serve as the primary caregiver. Today, more than six million children in the United States (roughly one in 12 children) live in such households, according to the Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA). 

Disadvantages of Kinship Adoption

“There are challenges when it comes to having someone within your family or a close friend adopt the child,” says Dean Kirschner, Ph.D., LCSW-C, Adoption Makes Family.

  • Sometimes Close is Too Close: “It can be difficult to watch someone else raise your child, especially if you live nearby and have frequent contact,” says Cohen. “Some women find this challenging.”
  • Conflicting Parenting Styles: “When you place a child for adoption, your parental rights are terminated,” says Cohen. However, kinship adoption and the continued intimate contact that often comes with it can cause conflict when biological and adoptive parents disagree on parenting techniques. This is true in all forms of adoption, but the situation is magnified with kinship adoption. “It might also be difficult to hold your tongue when you disagree with the choices they make,” says Cohen.
  • Role Confusion: While managing parenting roles can be confusion for adoptive and biological parents, this dynamic can also be confusing for the child. “If each family member’s roles, responsibilities and expectations are not clearly defined from the beginning, all of these different connections will be confusing for everyone involved,” according to American Adoptions. “The result may be that your child doesn’t truly know where he or she fits into your family.”

Exploring Your Adoption Options

“When facing an unplanned pregnancy, only you can decide which option is the best for your situation,” says Cohen. However, talking to a trained adoption counselor can be a great way to educate yourself before making such a big decision. At Adoption Makes Families, a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland, our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.

24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100

If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at or use our online contact form.


  1. “Can (and Should) a Family Member Adopt My Baby After Delivery?” American Adoptions,
  2. Cohen, Meghan. “Adoption Help: Giving a Baby up for Adoption to a Family Member.” Help With Adoption, 20 Mar. 2018,
  3. “Kinship/Relative Adoption.” Child Welfare Information Gateway,
  4. Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association. Raising Relatives’ Children. Raising Relatives’ Children.
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 9th, 2020 at 1:44 pm . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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