Foster Parenting or Adoption
Is One Right for You?
Foster parenting and adoption offer the opportunity to improve a child’s life, but these options differ in significant ways.
Forever or for awhile
Adoption is forever; conversely, the foster care system aims to reunite children with their birth parents. “If you don’t want to make a lifelong commitment but you love and care about children, consider becoming a foster parent,” says John Bates, foster care program manager at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families.
Foster children often leave their birth parents’ care due to abuse or neglect, but about half ultimately return home. Although sometimes a foster child cannot return to her birth family and becomes available for adoption, foster parents must prepare themselves to say goodbye to a child they have cared for.
Safety checks. Prospective foster and adoptive parents must undergo child abuse and criminal background checks, home safety assessments, health physicals and reference checks. They must show that they can provide a safe, stable and nurturing home.
Finances and fees. Applicants for foster or adoptive parenthood need to show financial stability. Foster parents need to have enough money to maintain their own household expenses, but they receive a stipend to care for their foster child, explains Bates.
The state often covers the fees to adopt a child from the foster care system. To adopt through a private agency, however, requires payment of numerous fees. Tara Gutterman, Esq., founder of Adoption ARC in Philadelphia, explains that employee benefits, the adoption tax credit, religious-based grants and negotiating with the adoption agency can help offset these charges.
Training. Prospective foster parents receive specific training to work with birth parents and address the challenges foster children often face from their experiences with abuse and neglect, plus the trauma of being separated from their birth families. Education programs for adoptive parents may address adoption of a child of a different race or ethnicity, communication with birth parents in open domestic adoptions, common medical issues in international adoptions and how to talk with your child about being adopted.
Read more about foster and adoptive parenting on the next page.
Once a family meets the requirements of either the adoption agency or foster care system, the wait begins.
In private agency adoptions, birth parents usually select the adoptive parents from profiles that match both sides’ desires. The wait lengthens when adoptive parents set specific criteria such as gender, race or prenatal drug exposure. “The more flexible you are, the more birth parents you’re shown to,” explains Maxine Chalker, founder and executive director of Adoptions from the Heart in Wynnewood, PA.
Because many foster children enter the foster care system in emergency situations, foster parents may wait months for a child, only to have just a few hours’ notice of his arrival. The system especially needs foster parents who accept sibling groups, teenagers and children with special needs, and these foster homes may have a shorter wait time before receiving one or more children.
Foster and adoptive parents have a powerful impact when they provide a loving home for a child without one.
Susan Stopper is a frequent contributor to MetroKids.