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Grandparent

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grandparent

In adoption, refers to parents of adoptive parents, who become grandparents after the adoption occurs, just as children already in the home (or children who come later, either by birth or by adoption) become siblings of the adopted child. (Grandparents of children who are placed for adoption are called "birth grandparents.") Some biological grandparents adopt their grandchildren. (See GRANDPARENT ADOPTIONS and RELATIVE ADOPTIONS). According to a 1998 U.S. Census Bureau report, about 1.4 million children under age 18 live with their grandparents, and neither biological parent is present.

The grandparent relationship is very important to the child, and most grandparents are fully loving and accepting; however, there are still some individuals who believe only a genetic relationship is significant or valid.

A minority of adoptive parents find examples of discrimination; for example, their parents give gifts only to children born to the family, ignoring adopted children.

Grandparents may express reservations about illegitimacy, having been raised to think of children born out of wedlock in a negative way. Experts advise parents to speak to their parents about any inequities in treatment of the child. In fact, it is preferable if adopting parents discuss grandparenthood with their parents before the child is actually adopted.

If grandparents continue to exhibit negative behavior, parents may need to restrict the number of visits unless or until the grandparents realize their behavior is unfair.

Author and therapist Stephanie Siegel devotes a chapter of her book Parenting Your Adopted Child to adoptive grandparents. Siegel encourages grandparents to realize that families with adopted children have similarities and differences from families with children born to them, but this should not affect the grandparenting role.

In most cases, grandparents who expressed serious reservations about adoption are ultimately won over, once they have had a chance to interact with the child and sufficient time to adjust. (See also BIRTH GRANDPARENT.)

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

A relatively new phenomenon is that of grandparents who are foster parents or who adopt their grandchildren. At least 5% of the children in the United States are being reared by a grandparent. There are a variety of reasons for this. Lifespans have increased and a grandmother could be as young as 30 or as old as 80 years or more. Their adult children may have problems with drugs or alcohol and thus are unable to care for the child and so the grandparent provides that care. In the overwhelming majority of cases, that grandparent is female.

Grandparents may also be providing care because of an adult child's incarceration. Over half of the children of incarcerated mothers live with their grandparents.

The move toward FAMILY PRESERVATION was also an impetus causing many children to remain foster children under their grandparents' care in recent years; however, with the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997, it is likely that many more grandparents will have and continue to adopt their grandchildren, particularly if they are allowed to continue receiving Medicaid and an adoption subsidy for the child.

Most grandparents acting as parents are not well educated and more than half did not graduate from high school. In addition, many reside at a low level of income. Grandparents who are rearing their grandchildren are predominantly African-American or Latina.


Denise Brunette, "Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in the Inner City," Families in Society 78, no. 5, (Sept/Oct 1997): 489.

Roseann Giarrusso, et al., "Family Complexity and the Grandparent Role," Generations 20, no. 1, (spring 1996): 17-24.

"Marital Status and Living Arrangements," March 1998, Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau.

Meredith Minkler and Kathleen M. Roe, "Grandparents as Surrogate Parents" Generations 20, no. 1 (spring 1996): 34-39.

Stephanie E. Siegel, Ph.D., Parenting Your Adopted Child (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1989).

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