Ideally, parents play an active and positive role in the lives of their children until they become adults and well after that point. They put the best interests of their children first in all major decisions.
In the real world, not all parents consistently meet the needs of their children. Issues ranging from health challenges to substance abuse disorders may impact the ability of an adult to meet the needs of a child. In Alaska, as elsewhere in the United States, grandparents sometimes seek custody of their grandchildren to protect them from an unsafe situation.
When can grandparents potentially go to court to seek custody of their grandchildren?
When parents die or lose their rights
If someone dies, they can no longer provide for their children and take care of them. Grandparents frequently step up to adopt their grandchildren when a parent tragically dies. They might also initiate an adoption when a parent has a medical issue that prevents them from caring for their child indefinitely. In situations where the state terminates a parent’s rights, a grandparent might adopt the children in the family to keep them out of foster care.
When parents neglect or abuse a child
Alaska state authorities do not always identify the households where children suffer significant abuse and neglect. The tragic truth is that many children spend years in the care of adults who fail to meet their needs. Grandparents with evidence of neglect or abuse affecting children can sometimes go to the state to seek custody before the state terminates someone’s parental rights.
Recognizing when grandparent custody is an option might help adults intervene on behalf of children in precarious positions.