The Difference Between Foster Care and Adoption

Not all children are provided the love, care, and support they deserve. Some individuals’ life choices or circumstances simply make it impossible for them to properly raise their children. When this happens, foster families and potential adoptive parents step in to help provide what is missing.

If you are one of the many people willing to take a child into your home, to feed, clothe, protect, and educate them, then you should know your rights and responsibilities. And you should have a firm understanding of the ways in which you can care for a child. A qualified adoption lawyer can help you weigh your options.

Foster care and adoption are the two primary means by which families can take in and care for a child.

Foster Care

A child may be placed into foster care when they are in an unsafe environment, when the parent or parents have been imprisoned, or when their parents have been deemed unfit to care for them. Such placement is carried out by a public social service agency. While they are in foster care, the child’s guardian will have parental rights over the child which is monitored, restricted, and regulated by the state.

As a foster parent, you will be responsible for ensuring that your foster child is adequately fed, clothed, and sheltered. Their health care and education will also be in your hands. You must do caregiver and parent training to ensure that you are providing the best care for them. You will receive regular stipends from the government for essential expenses in raising the child.

It is important to note that foster care is a temporary placement. A range of circumstances can lead to the removal of a foster child from your home. The other birth parent can claim the child. The condition of the birth parent who was the primary caregiver could improve and their right to resume custody restored. Relatives of the child may also claim them from your care. If it is not possible for either of the child’s birth parents to regain custody and another family wants to adopt the child, then they will be removed from your home.

The social service system and the family courts lean toward reuniting families when possible or putting a child in a stable long-term environment when this is not possible. As a foster care parent, you should keep this in mind.


Adopting a child gives you full legal custody and parental rights over them without any oversight by a social service agency. It may be possible for you to adopt your foster child. It will all depend on whether it is possible for the child to return to their biological family. Determining this can take months and sometimes years.

If you decide to adopt a child who is under your foster care or you want to adopt another child, you will need to undergo an extensive background and medical check. Your finances, home environment, lifestyle, and ability to support the child will be looked at carefully.

Differences Between Foster Adoption and Private Adoption

You should enter the process of adopting a child with your eyes wide open. You want to give the child you’re planning to bring into your home the best start possible. Even if you have stable employment and are financially well off, you must do proper planning and ask yourself some important questions. Preparing your home and your current family for the coming changes will help ensure that the adoption process is smooth, transparent, and predictable. These are some of the more significant differences between foster and private adoption.

1. Wait Times

If you go through a public agency to adopt a child, your wait can be anywhere from 0 to 5 years. Typical wait times for private adoptions vary, but are much shorter, often measured in months.

Your wait time in a foster adoption will depend greatly on the circumstances of the child. If you are looking to adopt a child from foster care, it may take very little time if the birth parents have already had their parental rights terminated. If this is not the case, you may be forced to wait a long time. Social services departments often give multiple opportunities to birth parents to get themselves together and resolve the problems that resulted in their children being removed from their homes.

The process of private adoption moves much faster because the parents have already agreed to move forward with an adoption plan for their child.

2. Uncertainty

There is uncertainty in both private and foster adoption. In a private adoption, the expectant mother is in control until the time she signs the forms surrendering her parental rights. While you may meet with her, provide her financial support, and come to an agreement for post-birth care, she can discontinue the adoption plan at any time up to the point of signing the documents. You should keep this in mind if you are going through a private adoption.

You can also face uncertainty if you are a foster parent who wants to adopt your foster child. If you take a child in, bond with them, apply to adopt them, and meet all the criteria required to do so, the process can be disrupted if the child’s biological parents comply with the state’s reunification plan and are granted custody again. It is important to note that, as recently as 2017, nearly 49% of foster children were reunited with their biological parents. You should keep this statistic in mind if you plan to adopt your foster child.

3. Birth Parent Involvement

In private adoptions, the birth mother knows many things about the prospective adoptive parents and they may meet and speak frequently. Some birth mothers will want to be present in the life of their child after birth. Others will want to play a more limited role. If you opt for a private adoption, you should be comfortable with some level of birth parent involvement in the life of the child you will adopt. No matter what arrangement you make with the birth parents leading up to the adoption plan, after you take legal custody, all contact with the child is by your consent and discretion.

In foster adoptions, the birth parents are less likely to be involved in the child’s life. However, cases vary, and you should be prepared to deal with a birth parent who wants to stay in their child’s life.

4. Cost

Private adoption fees and expenses can be a wide range. For a foster adoption, you may only have to pay for the cost of the home study. The reason why private adoptions cost so much more is because of the many processes, services, and specialists involved with them. If the birth mother in your private adoption is still pregnant, she may need financial support which can include assistance with rent, utilities, food, and medical treatment, and transportation to and from appointments.

For parents looking to adopt a child from foster care, we recommend reaching out to the Families First Network at Lakeview Center; they’re a wonderful resource and can help you every step of the way.

Contact Us About Private Adoptions

If you’re looking to do a private adoption, it’s always best to have someone by your side to help advise you of all of the processes along the way. Here at Gulf Coast Adoptions, we have the right knowledge and experience to walk you through the process and would be more than happy to help you. Please contact us with any questions you may have or to start your adoption journey today.

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