Welcoming Your Grandchildren Through Foster Care and Adoption (Plus Five Tips)
“Grandparents have a really special role,” says WACAP’s Director of Social Services, Elana Roschy. Reflecting on her parents and the connection they have with her son, she smiles and says, “For them, as grandparents, the pressure is off.” The pressure is off because, for many grandparents, the comprehensive parenting responsibility goes away, while the ability to love a child stays put.
For those whose grandchildren join their family through adoption and foster care, the opportunity to enrich a child’s life is no less rich and rewarding. At WACAP, we’re privileged to celebrate the special and singular role grandparents play in the lives of the children and families we serve.
Five Reminders for Grandparents
- Know you may feel loss or sadness about becoming a grandparent through foster care or adoption, and you’re not alone in that. Hearing this news might mean you’re saying goodbye to dreams you’ve long held, whether that’s rocking an infant granddaughter to sleep or passing down heirlooms to a grandson and namesake. Though you may face a different set of realities than you planned, you and your grandchild will have new opportunities to learn about each other and share in each other’s customs, traditions, and histories.
- Give your child (as the parent) time to attach to your grandchild, and know this time may be longer than you think. It’s typical that children who’ve joined families through foster care and adoption need more time to attach to their parents and to adjust to their environments than a new baby would. Likewise, your grandchild may require more time to attach to attach to you.
- Understand that you’ll become a “conspicuous grandparent” though adoption or perhaps though becoming a multicultural family. Talk to your child (as the parent) early and regularly about how you can respond to any stares or uncomfortable questions so that you affirm your grandchild and your relationship, honor your grandchild’s privacy and story, and respect your child’s wishes in the process.
- Take stock of the photos in your home, and make sure to include photos of your grandchild, and of you together. How many past and current photos do you have of you, your family, other grandchildren? If a child in foster care is joining your family temporarily, make sure that child is included in your family’s photos and displays and in photos with you.
- While you’re waiting to meet your grandchild (or between visits), there’s a lot you can do to help make your grandchild’s transition into your family and home smooth. Here are a few things you can do:
- Learn about your grandchild’s place of birth, birth country, background, and culture, and discover how you can incorporate your grandchild’s culture and traditions into your family.
- Learn to cook food your grandchild likes and recognizes.
- Familiarize yourself with projects and crafts your grandchild will enjoy.
- Start to learn your grandchild’s language, if different than yours, and start to procure books that you can read to your grandchild.
- Incorporate artwork that reflects your child’s culture in your home decor.
- Childproof your home, invest in safeguards for medicines or other potential hazards, and secure breakables.
- Create a plan for your pets for when your grandchild visits. Your grandchild may not know how to respond or may be afraid of your pet or vice versa.
- Find out what items you may need to purchase, and go shopping early for items you’ll need later—e.g., toys, books, booster seats, stroller, games, craft supplies, special equipment or supplies, etc. Look for books, toys and stories that reflect and celebrate your grandchild’s culture, ethnicity, traditions, personalities, hobbies and interests, etc.
- Make an introductory photo book for your grandchild about visiting you that includes …
- Photos of you and others you live with.
- Pictures of your home—the outside and the rooms inside.
- Your pets.
- Nearby parks or places you may visit with your grandchild.
On behalf of WACAP, thank you to the grandparents and the soon-to-be grandparents opening their hearts to children.
WACAP is committed to providing lifelong support to families before and after adoption. Learn more about WACAP’s support services.
Written By: WACAP Communications Editor M. Harrel with contributors WACAP Director of Social Services Elana Roschy and Past Vice President of Social Services MaryAnn Curran.
Image Source: Canva stock illustration/WACAP design.