Foster Parenting versus Adoption

There are differences between foster parenting and adoption, some insignificant and some major.

Being an adoptive parent carries with it more responsibility than being a foster parent, even in a long-term foster care situation.

Foster care is a temporary situation in which a child lives with a foster family because he cannot live with his birth family. Sometimes the foster child needs a temporary foster home due to neglect, abuse, unsafe and detrimental home life, or the birth parents are dead, incarcerated or otherwise unable to parent.

Adoption is a permanent addition of a child to a new family.  Adoptive parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities to a child as if he were their own birth child.

Both foster parents and adoptive parents have diverse reasons for wanting to take a child into their homes.  Some parents foster a child, hoping it will lead to adoption. Some families take in multiple foster children and have children coming in and out of their homes on a regular basis, providing a temporary home to many kids in need.

How Adoption Differs From Foster Parenting
While some foster parents are comfortable with the temporary nature of fostering, and can say goodbye to foster children when they return to their birth parents, other parents feel the need for a permanent parent-child relationship.

Some of the differences between adoption and foster parenting are:

  • Legal responsibility of a child. An adoptive family has the same legal rights and responsibilities as a birth family.  A foster child is a ward of the state and a foster family has little legal standing.
  • Financial responsibility. Adoptive families are financially responsible for supporting an adoptive child, even if the family receives adoption subsidies or financial help through the state. Adoptive children share in the estate of the parents. Foster families receive a stipend for costs associated with caring for a foster child.
  • Decision-making responsibilities. Adoptive parents take on full decision-making responsibilities, including decisions regarding medical treatment, schooling and religious upbringing. Decisions regarding foster children are shared among the foster parents, birth parents and state social workers.
  • Attachment goals. The state helps adoptive parents form an attachment with their adoptive child. When a child is in foster care, the goal is to reattach him to his birth family, and the foster family and state work together to successfully return the child to a healthy home life with his birth family.
  • Day-to-day parenting differences. Once an adoption is finalized, parents don't have a social worker in their homes to observe, evaluate and offer assistance with parenting. Foster parents are regularly assessed and evaluated. 
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Foster homes provide at-risk children a temporary, safe place to live until they can be reunited with their families or, in some cases, placed permanently with adoptive families. Some children stay in foster care for days or weeks; some stay for years.
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