Adoption, as everyone knows, is permanent. Adoptive parents have all parental rights and responsibilities regarding their adopted child, just as if the child had been born to them. They can make all decisions regarding medical treatment, religion, etc., and the adopted children automatically inherit their estate. In order for this to happen, the birth parents have to lose or give up their parental rights. The child no longer has any legal ties to their birth family. Though, many courts and agencies now encourage adoptive parents to allow their children to maintain some connection. For example, through letters or photographs, where appropriate. If the child was fostered by the adoptive parents, any financial support will stop after the adoption is final.
Foster Care is Temporary
On the other hand, foster care is supposed to be temporary. When a child is placed in foster care by a state agency, the first priority is the child. However, it is assumed that the best thing for the child is to be with his or her parents, so the end goal of foster care is to send the child home. While a child is in foster care, their birth parents still have parental rights, at least to some degree. The state or agency that placed the child will provide financial support to the foster parents. If the parents cannot repair whatever circumstances led to the child being removed, or if they should choose to relinquish their parental rights, the state would then place the child for adoption.
Long-term fostering, that is, keeping a child in the same foster home for perhaps years, is not an ideal solution. It can be useful sometimes, if the foster parents want to keep the child but feel that they need the ongoing support of an agency or caseworker. But there are things to remember about long-term fostering. While the child is in foster care and not adopted, foster parents have limited rights. They may need the birth parents’ permission for medical decisions, school placements, or other issues. Even if your foster child has been with you for years, they will not inherit from your estate unless they are specifically named in your will. As long as you are fostering, the agency could decide to move the child to another home at any time.
In all cases where a child cannot live with their parents, whatever the reason, the most important thing is that the child lives somewhere where they are safe and loved. While adoption is nearly always preferred to long-term fostering, you should discuss your situation with your caseworker and decide what is best for you and your family.
Learn More About Adoption vs. Long-Term Fostering
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, please check out our Foster Care Services section or contact us. If fostering isn’t for you, please consider donating or volunteering.