Fostering vs adoption

What’s the difference between fostering and adoption?

The main difference between fostering and adoption is that fostering is usually a temporary solution, whereas adoption is typically a long-term, permanent solution. As a foster carer, you are in the role of the parent – but the local authority and the child’s birth parents make all decisions for the child, and maintain the legal responsibility. However, as an adoptive parent, you will have full legal parental responsibility.

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. These are two very different things – as the child or young person’s birth parents still have the legal responsibility over the child when you are long-term fostering. However, children are rarely placed immediately into long term foster care as, in most cases, the goal is to return the children to their birth home. However, in some cases, this is not possible – which is where long term fostering steps in, to provide the child or young person a safe, secure home until they age out of the foster care system.

Foster carers often prefer long-term fostering to adoption because, in this case, the children are able to keep in contact with their birth parents – whereas adoption cuts those ties completely. Fostering allows the connection to still be continued between the child and their birth family.

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.

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