8 Differences Between Private Adoption and Foster Care

May is National Foster Care Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing articles and information highlighting foster care and foster adoption. Today, we’re exploring the differences between foster care and private adoption so hopeful parents can choose the path that’s right for their family.   

As a hopeful adoptive parent, you have many choices to make before you can start building the family of your dreams. While foster care and private adoption do have some similarities, there are some notable differences between these two types of adoptions. To help make this big decision a little easier, here are eight differences between adopting and fostering that you should keep in mind.

1. Voluntary vs. Involuntary Placement:

During a private infant adoption, the prospective birth mother is able to decide on every aspect of her adoption plan. She also has the right to change her mind at any time during the adoption process. Because she is in charge of relinquishing her parental rights, a private infant adoption is considered a voluntary placement. An involuntary placement, on the other hand, is made under specific circumstances that can vary by state. This is the most common way that children enter foster care.

2. Getting to Choose the Perfect Family:

If a prospective birth mother decides to make an adoption plan, she gets to choose the perfect family for her baby. Her social worker will send her a group of adoptive family profiles, and, once they’re matched, they’ll move onto the next stage in their adoption. In an infant adoption, the prospective birth mother can rest assured that she’s found the perfect family for her baby.

In foster care, parents usually don’t get a say in which family their child stays with. However, the state does the best they can to match foster youth with foster families who can meet their needs.

3. The Birth Parents’ Involvement:

While it is more than possible to have some degree of openness if you’re adopting from foster care, it’s much less likely than in an infant adoption. With most domestic infant adoption agencies, adoptive parents are required to be open to an open adoption — although what this may look like depends on their adoptive family and the birth parents’ unique circumstances. Most prospective birth mothers also prefer an open adoption, so they can feel reassured in their adoption decision.

If you’re adopting from the state, you may not have as much interaction or involvement with your child’s birth parents; however, this might vary depending on the situation. In some cases, it may not be the best idea to maintain a relationship with certain biological family members. It’s always best to have an honest conversation with a caseworker in these instances.

4. Costs:

Infant adoptions can get expensive, fast. Sometimes, adoptive parents can expect to pay around $50,000 for the chance to build their families with a private adoption agency. To make their dreams come true, some adoptive families look to fundraising to help cover some of the costs. In most cases, becoming foster parents or adopting from foster care means that you’ll have will have to pay very little — if anything — for this family-building option. In some cases, foster parents even receive a stipend, among other benefits.

5. Adoption is Permanent:

The main goal of foster care is always reunification with a child’s biological parents, unless their rights have already been terminated. In most cases, however, the biological parents are able to retain their rights while the child is in foster care. Adoption, on the other hand, is always permanent. Once the birth parents have terminated their parental rights and the adoption has been finalized, there’s no way to go back and change your mind. The option that you choose will depend on your personal goals for adoption.

6. Wait Times Can Vary:

Depending on the type of private adoption agency, adoptive parents can usually expect to wait around a year to meet the newest member of their family. But this wait can be much longer or shorter in foster care, depending on the circumstances, including whether a child’s parents’ rights have been terminated or not.

7. Foster Care Comes with Uncertainty:

If you’re considering foster care, you should do so because you want to help children, not if your only goal in mind is adoption. While you can adopt a child from foster care who’s waiting to find a permanent home, foster care is usually meant to be a temporary solution to provide a safe, stable environment for a child. If you go into it with the mindset that every situation will lead to adoption, you’re only setting yourself up for heartbreak and disappointment.

8. The Age of the Adoptee:

For most adoptive parents, working with a private adoption agency means adopting an infant. This can be a great option for families who can’t wait to experience every moment of their child’s life. The vast majority of foster care adoptions are for older children. It’s very rare to adopt an infant from foster care, and parents who are hoping for the chance should anticipate a long wait. You should discuss which age you’re comfortable with your partner and your family.

Both private adoption and foster care aim to build loving and supportive families. No matter which type of adoption you’re leaning toward, we encourage you to do plenty of research before making a final decision and to reach out to an adoption specialist or a caseworker if you have any questions.

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