Foster Care & Adoption: The Differences and Similarities

At first, foster care and adoption may sound synonymous since both similarly involve welcoming a child (or children!) into your home to care for and support. Either are noble and important undertakings, and it really comes down to two main differences: permanency and parental rights. Depending on the circumstances, a child can either be eligible for foster care or adoption.

mother holding child with burp cloth draped over shoulder

A foster child is placed in a home until they can be reunited with their birth parents or find an adoptive home.

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With foster children, the legal guardian typically maintains parental rights for the child. The priority is to care for them in time for them to reunite with their birth parents. If reuniting is not an option, the child will remain in foster care until they are welcomed into an adoptive home. The American SPCC recorded over 400,000 children and youth in foster care right now. Only 51% of children in foster care reunify with their parents or primary caregivers. The other half are adopted by a foster parent.

man and child sit on steps blowing bubbles

Adoption is a social, emotional and legal process to gain parental rights to a child. 

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If a child is eligible for adoption, their birth parents are willing to give up their parental rights. When adopting a child, you’re signing up to open up your home and heart to a child forever. Full legal custody and rights are granted to parents once adoption process is complete. Once legally adopted, the adoptive parents are entirely responsible for that child.

woman sits on couch holding child up in air

Both fostering and adopting are serious commitments full of opportunities to care and love a child in need.

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Whether you decide to adopt or foster a child, you’ll be playing a pivotal role in a child’s life. The many benefits of foster care and adoption depend on what’s best for you and your family, which will ultimately be the best for the child in need.

Whether you’re ready to start the process or in the thick of paperwork now, we admire your devotion to grow your family through adoption or support a foster child in need. The National Foster Care & Adoption Directory offers contact information for State child welfare officials, programs, organizations, and services with a focus on foster care, permanency, and adoption. Head to their website to learn more.

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