Should I Foster or Adopt?

Published: November 20, 2019, at 2:48 p.m. PT

Last updated: December 3, 2019, at 10:48 a.m. PT

foster mother and daughter laughing while holding each other

Not all foster parents plan to adopt, just as not all adoptive parents ever foster. Foster care is designed to be temporary, where adoption is permanent. A child doesn’t have to be in foster care to be adopted, and the hope for most foster children is that they will return to their biological family. While some kids are adopted from foster care, most will head home when their time at your house is over. 

When it is determined that biological parents can’t care for their children, they are temporarily placed with foster parents. Foster care placements are mediated by the state or by licensing organizations like the Y. Foster care is assumed to be temporary, with the goal of reuniting a child with their birth parents after it’s been determined that they can properly provide for their child financially, emotionally and socially. We all want families to stay together, so foster care is the opportunity for birth parents to repair issues in the home to reunite the family.

For a child to be adopted, birth parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights in the best interest of the child. Adoption also offers legal security to adoptive parents and children in a way that foster care doesn’t. Adoption is permanent. It's a legally binding relationship, bestowing on the adopted child all the rights and privileges that a biological child. 

Who makes decisions? 

In foster care, a child’s birth parents retain their parental rights while their child is in care. Some of those rights might be supervised by the state, but they're not terminated unless and until the child is placed for adoption. Until then, his birth parents have the final say on decisions regarding the child's care, with or without input from the state.

Foster parents cannot make medical decisions for a foster child. They also cannot make decisions about where the child will attend school or what religious services they should attend without the birth parents' consent. 

If a foster child is unable to return to his biological parents, the state will assume parental responsibility for decisions about healthcare. The child continues living in a foster home, however, until they are legally adopted either by their foster parents or by another parent or couple.

In adoptive situations, the adoptive parents are responsible for all decision-making for their child, just as if he had been born to them. Adoptive parents are responsible for the child’s medical care, financial obligations, and his educational and spiritual development.

What’s right for you? 

If you’re not sure about whether you want to foster or adopt, it’s important to ask yourself what you want. Are you a person who wishes to help many kids over time, helping them in their time of greatest need, or would you prefer to be the full-time loving parent to a few children? Both options change the lives of kids in need of love and support.