The Differences Between Foster Care and Adoption


Of course, there are many differences between foster care and adoption, ranging from the trivial to the significant. After a child is adopted and post placement visits have occurred, a social worker will no longer be a regular guest at your home. The child will have your last name. You will not have to share authority with an agency decisions about school, medical treatment, religious practice and a myriad of other parenting matters can be made without someone looking over your shoulder. The child will inherit from you and is entitled to a share of your estate equal to that of any of your other children. You will be financially responsible for the child’s welfare until the age of majority, and you will be liable for his or her actions in any legal disputes.

When you adopt your foster child, especially one who has been with you for an extended period of time, both you and the social worker should help the child to understand the significance of the change in status. The child’s life-book, a personalized account of his or her birth and placement history, may be an important tool in facilitating understanding. It is very important that you mark or celebrate the change from foster care to adoption in some symbolic fashion, so that the child really perceives the difference. Children who have been moved around a lot may truly not see what all the fuss is about, but it should be made clear that adoption is a major life event. A special party, a family ceremony, even the sending of formal announcements are all possible ways of marking the adoption. Ask your child and other family members what they would like to do to commemorate this milestone.

When you adopt, you will have to incorporate the child’s birth family experiences and background and possibly former foster care situations into your family lore. You must honor the child’s birth heritage and positive memories, and build upon them. If the past involved abuse or neglect, especially sexual abuse, you should receive special training to understand how those experiences can affect a child in later stages of development. If the child will have contact with birth or former foster family members, you should consider how visiting or corresponding will work within the context of your family.

If you adopt a child who has special needs either as a result of genetics, placement experiences or a combination of the two you will have to deal with these ongoing issues. Adoption subsidies can help with the financial aspects of raising children with special needs; you should also know what other resources will be accessible to you.

The central issue in changing from the role of foster parent to adoptive parent is that of redefining your attachment to the child as a full lifetime commitment. Are you ready, willing and able to see this child through to adulthood and afford him or her all of the opportunities and burdens that being a member of your family entails? Can you see this child as a part of your life long into the future? To do this, you and your agency social worker should examine the strengths and needs of your family, agency and community, and evaluate the impact of adding this particular child, with particular strengths and needs, to your family on a permanent basis. This is what making an informed adoption decision is all about.

Hopefully, your agency will walk you through the process of evaluating the strengths and needs of the child and your family to see whether permanent placement with you is in all of your best interests.

Hopefully, your agency will walk you through the process of evaluating the strengths and needs of the child and your family to see whether permanent placement with you is in all of your best interests.

If you do adopt, become aware of the large adoptive parent and professional support network that exists. You definitely will not be alone. There are adoptive family support groups all over the U.S. that provide a forum for discussion, friendship and mutual assistance. Adoption conferences on the local, regional and national levels offer additional learning opportunities. Literature is available on many relevant topics to you.

More and more professionals and agencies are developing expertise in the area of post adoption services. All of this means that if you have an occasional rough period along the way, knowledgeable and empathetic people can help you through it.

It should be noted that there is still much confusion in the general public about the difference between an adoptive home and a foster home. An adoptive family has the same parental rights and obligations as a birth family does when the child is born to them. A foster family must defer many decisions about a child’s welfare to a state or county social worker. Although a child may remain in a foster home for years as a foster child, the state can (and has) removed foster children for a variety of reasons. An adopted child, however, can only be removed for the same reasons as a birth child.

It is also true that some private adoption agencies place children into their own approved “foster care” homes for a period of days, weeks or months, allowing birth parents to make final decisions about adoption and to sign consent forms prior to the time judges sign permanent termination of parental rights. Such families are generally not the families referred to (sometimes in a pejorative manner) when the media discusses foster care, foster children and foster families. Such private agency foster care is usually funded by the agency rather than by the state. The remainder of this essay refers solely to foster children in state care.

If all attempts at reunification with the parents fail, adoption may be considered as the plan for the child. Parental rights will be legally terminated, and the child can then be adopted. Older children who probably could be placed with adoptive families may decide against adoption for themselves. f a child is over a certain age, for example, 12 years, in some states, he or she has the option of declining adoption. In such a case, a legal guardianship of extended foster case may be feasible.

In an increasing number of cases, foster children are adopted by their foster parents or placed in a legal risk situation with a family interested in adoption at the beginning of foster care or placed with extended family, and thus there is no need to relocate the child to another home, another school, new parents or new friends.

Recruitment for adoptive parents is achieved through MEDIA advertising, photo listing books and listings on state and national computer data banks. Many state social service agencies also offer picnics, bringing WAITING CHILDREN to the picnic in the hope the child and prospective parents may meet. In addition, the caseworker may already know a family who appears a good match for the child.

The Foster care adoption process is complex, and afflicted by many potential barriers,some of which are easier to address than others. Some barriers may even be considered necessary, in that they exist to protect a child’s best interests or a parents rights. For example, some children are not psychologically ready to be adopted, and some children might choose not to be adopted. The age at which children can choose rather they wish to be adopted is 12, by law. Similarly, the process may slow to ensure thats parents have the opportunity to appeal court decisions or to obtain sufficient services to address their own needs. Thus even in a perfect system, some adoptions would not quickly move forward, and some would not happen at all.

States vary as to when they begin the process of finding an adoptive placement for the child. Some begin during concurrent planning, while others wait until PPR proceedings have been finalized. This process involves recruiting, selecting, and approving the appropriate home. The court then conducts adoption proceedings, while the agency sets up a subsidy, and establishes services for the adoptive family,and prepares the family,and child for the Adoption. All adoptive families are eligible to receive an adoption subsidy to assist with care expenses.

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