Adoption arises from many situations and relationships. Adopting your relative's child, referred to as relative or kinship adoption, maintains family ties while providing a child with a permanent home. Adopting your sister's child provides immeasurable assistance to your niece or nephew but can cause significant family ramifications. The child benefits from stability in familial relationships and cultural identity. Kinship adoption is a long process, but it can be very rewarding.
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Contact the local child protective agency that is caring for your sister's child. Apply to be the child's foster placement. They usually prefer to place a child with relatives rather than unrelated caregivers for foster care.
Comply with your state's requirements to become a foster parent. Some states require you to complete drug testing and a home study before receiving custody of your sister's child. In Kentucky, for example, relative foster parents must meet the same requirements as non-relative caregivers. You may need to foster-parent your niece or nephew.
Prepare yourself emotionally for the change in family dynamics that kinship adoption brings. Family relationships change. You will no longer be aunt or uncle, but parent. Extended family may not approve of the adoption. Your sister may not be emotionally ready to see her child as your legal dependent and she may feel betrayed or incredibly grateful. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your sister, if possible. You may benefit from family counselling.
File a petition to adopt your niece or nephew after your sister has voluntarily relinquished her parental rights or the juvenile court system has terminated her rights. Depending on your state requirements, you may need to undergo an additional home study to ensure your home will be appropriate. In some states the requirements to adopt your sister's child are more stringent than kinship fostering.
Tips and warnings
- If your sister's child is not in protective custody and she agrees to relinquish her parental rights, contact an adoption attorney. An attorney can file the paperwork to terminate your sister's parental rights and finalise your adoption.
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- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children & Families: How do I Adopt my Relative's Child?
- Kentucky Cabinent for Health and Family Services: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Foster Care
- Washington State Department of Social & Health Services: Become a Kinship Care Provider
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Kinship Caregivers and the Child Welfare System
- Adoption.com: Relative Adoption
- "New Fedaralism: Issues and Options for States"; Finding Permanent Homes for Foster Children: Issues Raised by Kinship Care; Rob Green ; Fall 2003