What’s the difference between fostering and adoption?
The primary difference between fostering and adoption is that adopters become the child’s new permanent legal parents and therefore make all parental decisions. Foster carers have a different role, they look after the children of birth parents and so decision making for the child is shared by the local authority and birth parent(s), although some decisions can be delegated to the foster carers.
So, should you choose to foster or adopt?
Fostering versus adoption
- Demand – typically, fostering has a much higher demand than adoption. There are around 75,000 children and young people in foster care in the UK – and around 6,800 of these children still need a foster home. On the other hand, with adoption, there are around 6,000 children in need of adoption each year – showing that there is much higher demand for foster carers to help change a young person’s life.
- Commitment – with adoption, this child will become part of your family, forever – so it’s important to ensure you’re ready for that commitment. However, with fostering – especially short-term – placements can often last a matter of days or weeks at a time. That being said, there is still a level of commitment to consider with fostering, especially if you are becoming a long term foster carer.
- Waiting time – as a foster parent, your first placement is likely to begin quite quickly. This is also the case for when you are approved as an adoptive parent – however, there is a better chance of having a foster placement who matches the carers’ preferences and skills, which means that often, this can lead to a higher waiting time for adoptive parents.
- Cost – unlike fostering, it can actually cost a fair bit of money to even apply to become an adoptive parent. While foster carers are paid a competitive weekly fostering allowance, there are many costs involved in adoption – including paying the Department of Education a fee to process your application, and provide a certificate of eligibility. You’re also likely to pay between £4,000 – £9,000 for the application process alone.
Adoption vs long-term fostering
Often, people make the mistake of confusing long-term foster care with adoption. In foster care, children will be placed with foster carers as long as they need to be. Sometimes this is short term, as if deemed safe by the Court, children can return to live with their parent(s) or other family members. However, many children are made subject to a full Care Order. This means they need a long-term foster placement to grow up in, until they reach the age of 18 years. For many children in care this will be the permanent plan for them.
Can foster parents adopt?
The goal of fostering is not adoption. Fostering is geared towards reuniting children or young people with their birth parents and, typically, foster children do not become available for adoption. However, if you do wish to adopt your foster child, there are some issues to contend with:
- Application process – the application process to become an adoptive parent is completely separate to that of a foster carer, and can often take a long term to be completed.
- Birth parents – going from a foster carer to an adoptive parent can also complicate the severing of ties with the birth parents, as naturally, they know who you are.
- Fostering for Adoption – this is a scheme where children in care are assessed with a view to adoption as the outcome. This happens when the local authority or fostering agency looks at the approved adopters and accepts them as temporary foster carers for the child – considered as a dual approval. However, adoption is still not guaranteed in this scheme.
Deciding whether to foster or adopt can be a difficult decision, which should take time and consideration. Ensure you’ve explored all the avenues you can before making your decision. For some extra advice and support, learn more about why you should become a foster carer, or get in touch with a member of our expert team now.