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Welcoming a child into your home to provide them with a safe and stable place is both a noble and important undertaking. This can happen in a variety of ways, including both foster care and adoption.

Foster care and adoption allow you to love and support a child, opening your heart and home to someone who needs it the most. While both are serious commitments full of benefits and opportunities to play a pivotal role in the life of a child, there are many differences between the two. A myriad of circumstances makes a child eligible for foster care and adoption, and there are a variety of differences to think about.

First, the way a child enters each process if very different. A child becomes part of the foster care system after it has been deemed they are living in an unsafe or neglectful environment. Placement of a foster child is done through a state or social service agency.

In foster care, the child’s legal guardian still (typically) maintains all parental rights for the child. Although these rights are managed by the state, they remain intact unless the child is placed for adoption. This comes into play when considering educational, medical, and even religious decisions for the child. With adoption, full legal custody and rights are granted to the adoptive parents. Care for the child is entirely the responsibility of the adoptive parent or parents.

Once a child has entered the foster care system, the biological parent does not get to select where, or with whom, the child will go. With adoption, on the other hand, placement typically involves the biological parent in some way.

The length of stay is also a significant difference between foster care and adoption. While there is no set time-limit, and foster care can sometimes lead to adoption, foster care is a temporary placement. This can be weeks, years, or an even more long-term placement. Children stay in foster care until they can be placed back with their biological family or into a permanent adopted home.

Foster parents receive regular stipends from the government for essential expenses of raising the children placed in their home. On the other hand, adoption is an out-of-pocket expense, starting with the adoption fees themselves, to the cost of raising the child.

Both avenues require extensive background checks and additional medical testing, but as a foster parent, you must take caregiver and parent trainings to ensure you are providing the best care for the child. While these trainings are offered by many different organizations, and to a variety of people, they are not a requirement for adoptive parents.

For both scenarios, it is important to consider what is right for the individual’s current situation. The many benefits of foster care and adoption can work better for some than others, and it’s critical to evaluate what will be best for you (which will ultimately work out best for the child). Both come with incredible benefits, for you and the child, and are life-changing ways to make a difference in someone’s life.