Birth Grandparent

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birth grandparent

The biological or genetic grandparent of an adopted child. It would be clearer to use the phrase "the birthmother's parents" or "the birthfather's parents."

Studies have revealed the tremendous impact of the birth grandparent, particularly a birth grandmother, on a birthmother's decision to parent a child or place it for adoption.

Author Leroy H. Pelton found the attitude of birth grandparents to be very critical in the adoption decision of birthmothers. The birth grandparents' unwillingness to accept the child into the family was the strongest factor that decided a birthmother to choose adoption rather than parenting.

Birth grandparents also face tremendous societal pressure. Those who encourage their daughter or son to choose adoption for the child rather than to parent often incur societal disapproval from friends, relatives and others, who cannot understand how they can "give up their own flesh and blood."

If the birthmother is a teenager, her parents will often end up parenting the child themselves if the birthmother decides against adoption, particularly if the birthmother is a young teenager living at home. Sometimes the birth grandparent wants to rear the child herself, which is one reason why birthfathers who have expressed little or no interest in parenting may sometimes, just before or just after the baby's birth, decide to demand custody of the child. (See BIRTHFATHERS.)

Some birth grandparents-to-be don't wish to raise another child or don't feel they can provide an adequate environment for an infant and consequently encourage adoption as the better solution, while others may still believe the proper solution is for the birthmother to parent the baby.

It is often difficult for birth grandparents-to-be to understand that they cannot forbid their child to choose either parenthood or adoption, although they can exert tremendous moral and economic influence. Individuals whose daughters or sons are expecting a child should take care that they are well aware of all the options available to them so regret and resentment will not overwhelm them in later years.

Jeanne Warren Lindsay addressed the emotional issues of helping your daughter make an adoption plan in her book Parents, Pregnant Teens and the Adoption Option: Help for Families.

Lindsay reports that birth grandparents are unlikely to receive or seek out support from their peers and may not want to discuss their daughter's pregnancy at all. "Their friends may not know how to approach them for fear of offending them," Lindsay writes. "Many birth grandparents feel terribly alone during this time."

Grandparents' Rights

Grandparents' rights vary, but most states allow the birthparents to decide for or against adoption. In some states, grandparents have limited rights; for example, in the state of Florida, if the child has lived with a grandparent continuously for six months and the birthparents decide to place the child for adoption, the grandparent must be notified by the agency or intermediary before the petition for adoption is filed. If the grandparent wishes to adopt the child, he or she will be given first priority over nonrelatives (excluding stepparents).

Virtually every adoption agency is eager to involve birth grandparents in the counseling process, particularly the parents of the birthmother, in order to help them work through the issues of grief and loss and to know the joy of having their grandchild in the family that is best for the child, all things considered. (See also BIRTHFATHER; BIRTHMOTHER; GRANDPARENT RIGHTS.)


Jeanne Warren Lindsay, Parents, pregnant Teens and the Adoption Option: Help for Families (Buena Park, Calif.: Morning Glory Press, 1989).

Leroy H. Pelton, "The Institution of Adoption: Its Sources and Perpetuation," Infertility and Adoption: A Guide for Social Work Practice (New York: Haworth Press, 1988).

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