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What Are the Differences Between Foster Care and Adoption?


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Question: What Are the Differences Between Foster Care and Adoption?

During foster or adoptive parent training classes, many new prospective parents confuse foster care and adoption, especially the concept of parental rights. Here are a few ways that foster care and adoption are different.


There are a few distinct differences between foster care and adoption. They mostly focus around two main concepts: permanency and parental rights.


Foster Care: The biggest thing to remember about foster care is that it is temporary. We don’t want any child to remain in foster care long term.

Adoption: On the other hand, adoption is permanent. Adoptive parents are the adopted child’s parents for forever as if the child was biologically their own.

Parental Rights

Foster Care: In a foster care situation, the child’s birth parents have parental rights over their child, unless the child is up for adoption. If the child is not up for adoption, then the birth parents make decisions for the child's care. This means foster parents cannot, for example, sign an IEP for a foster child, make medical decisions, change the child’s religion, or get the child baptized without parental consent. In some states, foster children cannot get hair cuts without the parent’s permission.

After parental rights have been terminated by the court, the state or agency over the child's case makes decisions and oversees the care of the child with approval from the court or judge.

Adoption: In an adoptive situation, the adoptive parents are responsible for everything regarding the care and decision making for the child. Adoptive parents are responsible for the child’s medical care, financial obligations, educational, and spiritual development. In the responsibility of taking care of the child, it’s no different than giving birth.

So, when considering the differences between foster care and adoption remember to ask yourself:

  1. Which is permanent? Which is temporary?
  2. Who holds parental rights?

The similarities between foster care and adoption is in the taking care of children that are not biologically the caregivers and parenting children that may have similar needs due to being abused or neglected. These are the reasons that those interested in becoming either foster parents or adoptive parents from foster care are combined into the same training classes.

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