When a guardian adopts a child, it is usually in the noted and willful absence of the biological parent. That biological parent has, by his or her actions, indicated to the child that the child is unwanted. The guardian who becomes an adoptive parent effectively says to that child, “I choose you.”
Many children are being raised by guardians who have been appointed by the court to provide the care, support and nurturing that an absentee parent cannot provide. Legal guardianship is defined by a court order that states someone who is not a child’s parent is responsible for taking care of the child. A legal guardian has most of the same responsibilities and rights a parent would have. Guardians are often relatives, and grandparents top the list of relatives who bring children into their home to care for them on an ongoing basis.
Guardianship is often pursued due to the parent or parents’ physical or mental illness, commitment to jail/prison/rehab, a history of being abusive or absent, or some other circumstance making them unable to care for the child.
Various timelines apply when a guardian seeks to adopt the child or children in their care. Depending on the circumstances and reasons for the guardianship, a guardian may be able to request an adoption as early as six months after placement, or may be required to wait three years. Each case is different and turns on its own facts.
If a guardian petitions the court for adoption of a child in their care, the following requirements must be satisfied: one or both parents do not have legal custody of their child; the child has been in the physical custody of the guardian for a period of at least six months; and the court finds that the child would benefit from being adopted by his or her guardian.