Difference Between an Adopted Child & a Foster Child
The most important difference between adoption and foster care is that adoptive parents are meant to be permanent replacements for a child's biological parents, whereas foster parents are only meant to be temporary parents. Both types of non-biological parents are supposed to provide warm, family-like settings for children who can't be with their real parents. Still, the goal of foster care is to eventually reunite the children with their families. The length of time a child remains with a foster family can vary from a few days to a few years, while a child is intended to remain with his adoptive family forever. Another big difference is that legally, an adoptive parent is his child's legal guardian. Meanwhile, a foster parent has no legal long-term authority over his foster child.
The Difference Between Adoption and Fostering
What is adoption?
Adoption is a legal process, with a court permanently transferring all parental rights and responsibilities for the child to their new family. The child becomes part of the adoptive family, as if they had been born into it, even taking their surname. Adoption has significant legal, emotional, psychological and social consequences for everyone involved: it is a life-changing moment and cause for both celebration and sadness.
What is fostering?
Fostering is a way of providing family life for someone else’s child, when they are unable to live in their birth family - with the expectation that most will hopefully return home.
Where this is not possible, the local authority will look at alternatives, such as the child being cared for by other relatives, or possibly adoption or permanent fostering.
Unlike adoption, a fostered child remains the legal responsibility of the local authority and/or their birth parents. The only exception to this is in Scotland, for permanent foster carers.
Types of foster care
There are many different types of foster care to meet the varying needs of children in the care system. Some foster carers will look after a child for just a few days, while others will care for them for many years.
Also known as long-term fostering. The foster family usually cares for the child until they reach adulthood, so it is very different to other forms of fostering. For some children, especially those over the age of seven, who may have strong bonds with their birth family, or children with complex care needs or disabilities, permanent fostering is a better option than adoption for providing stability.
However, at no point will permanent foster carers in the UK, outside Scotland, gain any legal responsibility for the child. They will still, for example, need to sign things like forms for school trips. In Scotland, permanent foster carers can share parental responsibilities and rights with a local authority, and with birth parents too, depending on the circumstances.
When the parents make an arrangement for their child to stay with someone who is not a close relative, and has no parental responsibility, for 28 days or more, this is defined as private fostering. The legal age of a child is under under 16 years, or 18 if disabled. Although a private arrangement, there are special rules about how the child is looked after. The local authority must be told about the arrangements, and will make visits to check on the child's welfare.
Short-term foster care
Involves the carers looking after the children for a few weeks or months, sometimes longer, while permanent plans are made for the child’s future.
Emergency foster care
Caring for children who need somewhere safe to stay immediately, usually for a few nights.
Short break care
Also known as respite care. Usually involves children living with their own family or foster carers, but occasionally having short stays with another foster family, when it is needed. Disabled children with special needs or children with behavioural difficulties - and the main carers of these children - may benefit from this type of foster care. It is also known as 'family link' or 'shared care'.
Caring for young people who are ‘remanded’ (England and Wales) by the court into the care of the local authority.
Previously, a similar scheme was in place in Northern Ireland, but this is no longer in operation
In Scotland, young people may be placed in foster care as an alternative to secure accommodation.
Family and friends or kinship care
Children are cared for by people they already know.
Mother and baby or parent and child
Usually involves carers looking after a parent, often a mother, and her child or children to prepare them for the future. This type of foster care is especially useful for very young parents.
Special guardianship is considered a bit of a 'halfway' house between adoption and permanent fostering. It does not give total legal responsibility to the special guardians, but they do exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of others on most issues - like signing forms for school trips. However, the child's birth parents will still share legal responsibility, although their rights will be very limited.
Question: What Are the Differences Between Foster Care and Adoption?
During foster or adoptive parent training classes, many new prospective parents confuse foster care and adoption, especially the concept of parental rights. Here are a few ways that foster care and adoption are different.
There are a few distinct differences between foster care and adoption. They mostly focus around two main concepts: permanency and parental rights.
Foster Care: The biggest thing to remember about foster care is that it is temporary. We don’t want any child to remain in foster care long term.
Adoption: On the other hand, adoption is permanent. Adoptive parents are the adopted child’s parents for forever as if the child was biologically their own.
Foster Care: In a foster care situation, the child’s birth parents have parental rights over their child, unless the child is up for adoption. If the child is not up for adoption, then the birth parents make decisions for the child's care. This means foster parents cannot, for example, sign an IEP for a foster child, make medical decisions, change the child’s religion, or get the child baptized without parental consent. In some states, foster children cannot get hair cuts without the parent’s permission.
After parental rights have been terminated by the court, the state or agency over the child's case makes decisions and oversees the care of the child with approval from the court or judge.
Adoption: In an adoptive situation, the adoptive parents are responsible for everything regarding the care and decision making for the child. Adoptive parents are responsible for the child’s medical care, financial obligations, educational, and spiritual development. In the responsibility of taking care of the child, it’s no different than giving birth.
So, when considering the differences between foster care and adoption remember to ask yourself:
- Which is permanent? Which is temporary?
- Who holds parental rights?
The similarities between foster care and adoption is in the taking care of children that are not biologically the caregivers and parenting children that may have similar needs due to being abused or neglected. These are the reasons that those interested in becoming either foster parents or adoptive parents from foster care are combined into the same training classes.