So, you want to care for a child! Fostering or adopting a child without a loving home is a selfless adventure, full of excitement, hope, and even some challenges. 

You may be wondering if foster care is right for you or if you are ready to adopt a child into your home. Here are some thoughts to consider when weighing foster vs adopt.

Foster Vs Adopt Permanency

Both adoption and foster care involve caring for children who are not biologically your own. In both cases, children may have been abused and neglected. In some states, the classes used to train individuals to become foster parents and the adoption classes are the same. Both have the goal to provide a permanent and loving home for a child.

Perhaps the main difference between adoption and foster care is that foster care is temporary. Your agency or social worker has the goal of repairing the problems in your child’s home that led to their removal. When biological parents are able to prove that they can support their children financially, emotionally, and socially, then the child will be able to return to them.

If, however, this proves impossible, foster parents may be permitted to adopt the child. In some states, this may be handled as a “fost-adopt” program, where parents foster a child with the understanding that they will eventually become legally eligible for adoption. In other states, your social workers may be able to help you identify children who are more likely to become eligible for adoption in the future, although they cannot guarantee that birth parent rights will be terminated.

Foster placements are usually mediated by the court system or Social Security agency in your area. If a child cannot return to their adoptive parents, a decision will be made to terminate birth parent rights. More than 13 percent of the children in foster care are adopted each year.

Adoptions, by contrast, are legally binding relationships that bestow upon your child all the rights and privileges of a biological child. In some cases, biological parents have voluntarily given up their rights because they feel that it is in the best interest of the child. Adoption offers legal security to both adoptive parents and their children.

Foster Vs Adopt Openness

The level of openness in an adoption depends upon arrangements that are made ahead of time. Most international adoptions, for example, are closed, and the child has no contact with birth parents after the adoption is finalized.

Most domestic adoptions, however, involve some kind of contact with birth parents. In many cases, there is a semi-open situation in which the birth parent receives updates in the form of letters, texts, or emails on occasions like a child’s birthday or holidays. Some are even more open and involve visitations.

When you are fostering a child, he or she will remain in close contact with his or her birth parents. Children in foster care are encouraged to maintain regular contact. In some cases, there are court-ordered regular visits with birth parents.

Foster Vs Adopt Decision-Making

While foster parents may be able to make some decisions about their child, they are not permitted to make any major medical decisions. They are also not allowed to decide how the child will attend school or religious services.

When your child is adopted, however, you will make the decisions about where to send them to school and how they will receive religious education, just as birth parents do.

Foster Vs Adopt Cost

Adopting an infant through an agency in the U.S. can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000. Adopting privately through a lawyer can cost between $15,000 to $30,000. International adoption can cost up to $45,000.

Adopting a child through foster care, however, may only cost between $2,000 and $3,000. In some states, the state will reimburse you for this fee. In others, adoption through foster care is absolutely free.

If you decide to use an agency to adopt, keep in mind that you may be eligible for an adoption tax credit of $14,080 per child. This is money that can be used to recuperate what you have spent on adoption-related expenses, including agency fees, legal fees, and home study fees. In order to be eligible for the full tax credit, you will need to be earning less than $211,160 per year. If you are making between $211,160 per year and $251,160, you may be eligible for partial credit. Some adoptive parents also receive a certain amount of money per child for adoption from their employers. Check with your human resources department. You can also apply for one of the many adoption grants that are available.

Foster parents may receive a monthly stipend for providing temporary care for a child. This can be anywhere from $450 to $900 per child per month. The stipend is to be used to meet a child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, and childcare. Your monthly stipend may be higher if your child has special needs. In some states, a sibling group, older child, or child with unique learning or emotional challenges is considered special needs.

In many cases, money that is being used to provide for counseling and educational services for a child with special needs may be continued to be supplied even after a child is adopted. Foster children receive free healthcare in the form of Medicaid. In some states, foster children and former foster children are eligible for a free college education if they go to school in the state they were fostered in.

Becoming A Foster Parent

It takes a unique person to become a foster parent. You should be flexible, caring, and have a good sense of humor. In most states, you will need to be at least 21 years old and have the financial means to care for yourself. Your home needs to be free of fire and safety hazards, and you will need to complete a criminal background check.

Many states now allow parents to become certified as foster and adoptive parents at the same time. This helps to ease the transition for foster parents who wish to eventually adopt their children. All programs require parents to complete a training course.

Foster care training programs will cover behavioral and emotional issues, including trauma. It will give parents disciplinary techniques that can help them care for children who have been victims of abuse in the past. You will learn about cooperation, limit setting, and bonding.

Home visits are often part of the process of becoming a foster parent. States have different regulations in terms of sleeping arrangements. Your child will need their own room and bed. In many cases, there is a limit to the number of children who can sleep in one room, and opposite-sex children must have separate bedrooms.

Home visits are also a good time to discuss your preferences in terms of the age and child you are willing to foster. If you are open to fostering a sibling group, you can let your social worker know.

Once you become a certified foster parent, you may get a call at any time to let you know that a child is in need of a home.

Adopting Through Foster Care

If you are certified to adopt from foster care, you may be eligible to go on states’ heart galleries and view the children who are already eligible for adoption. You will be allowed to contact the child’s social worker and get more information about them. If a match is made, you can begin speaking to those who know your child best, such as teachers, counselors, and social workers. Visits will begin before you can take the child to live with you. Adoption from foster care usually takes place about a year after birth parent rights are terminated.

The children who are available for adoption from foster care right away have a median age of 8 years old. They may be part of a sibling group or an ethnic or national group that exits the system at a slower rate.

However, nearly half of all adoptions through foster care are of children who entered the system before the age of 1. If you are interested in adopting a younger child, you may wish to foster an infant or toddler first. This will give you experience and help with bonding before the adoption becomes permanent. In many cases, however, there is no guarantee that birth parent rights will be terminated.

Becoming An Adoptive Parent

In order to adopt an infant through a domestic agency, parents must be prepared to undergo a home study. This will involve a social worker interviewing you and/or your spouse or partner both inside and outside the home.

Your house does not need to be a palace if you wish to adopt a child! It just needs to be a clean, safe place where a child can learn and grow. Be honest with your social worker about the type of child that you think you are best prepared to parent. If you are open to minor correctable medical problems, such as a cleft palate or orthopedic problem, this is the time to let them know. Your social worker may also ask about your own upbringing and disciplinary philosophy. Keep in mind that they will be looking for an effective but flexible approach.

Adoptive parents must be able to prove that they can support both themselves and their child after they adopt. They need to have a life insurance policy in place. They will also need to undergo a background check and child abuse clearance. Many adoption agencies also require a medical exam.

If you wish to adopt a child through an agency, you will usually be required to supply a photo album either physically or online that will show prospective birth parents what sets you apart as a family. You may like certain sports teams or have pets or enjoy cooking. You never know what will cause a birth mother to “click” with your profile, so be sure to showcase exactly what will make you a great parent!

You will also need a home study if you wish to adopt internationally. Do your homework and find a country that adopts out children who are in the age range you wish to adopt. Many countries now only have younger children if they are part of sibling groups. Some, however, like China and India, have children available for adoption who are under 5 years old. You will also want to keep in mind the travel requirements if you get homesick easily or if you have a job that does not allow you to take much time off.

International agencies have local social workers that can do your home study. If the agency you wish to use is located in another state, they can usually partner with an agency in your area for the home study process.

If you adopt through an agency, keep in mind that there may be post-placement visits for up to a year after the adoption is complete. These will likely be just to see how the child is adjusting, and how you are managing the demands of parenting.

Older children especially may have needs that require extra services, such as tutoring, counseling, and medical treatments. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those in your community, including houses of worship, for support.

Remember that you are a person too! Time spent with friends, keeping up with your appearance, and getting support from books and podcasts can be critical during your first few months as a foster or adoptive parent. A listening ear and encouraging perspective can bring you a lot of hope during this time.

Foster Vs. Adopt

The decision to foster vs. adopt is unique for each family. Issues such as permanency, finances, and openness should all play a part in your decision. Once you have begun your journey, get ready for an adventure of love and hope that will last a lifetime!

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.

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Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.