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Weighing Your Options: Foster Care or Adoption

Foster Care Blog Image: A family of three walking down a brick sidewalk. The child is in the middle holding his parents' hands.When traditional pregnancy isn’t an option, partners may look to grow their families through other methods, such as surrogacy, foster care, or adoption. In this article, we are going to look at the differences and benefits of two of these options – foster care and adoption. 

Choosing Between Foster Care and Adoption

Foster care and adoption can both provide a loving home for a child, but there are some major differences between these two options.

Foster Care

Fostering is an incredibly selfless way to care for a child. While foster parents can ultimately become the legal parents of the child, they are not granted many of the rights of legal parents at the time of placement. “The child is a ward of the state and the caseworker or the judge has to sign off on many daily life decisions,” says Tanya Brodd, Foster Children’s Rights Coalition

Foster care is almost always assumed to be temporary, which can be incredibly difficult for foster parents, who grow to love and care for the child. In 53 percent of cases, birth parents and children are eventually reunited after it has been determined that the birth parents can properly provide for their child financially, emotionally and socially. “The goal is that he will someday return home,” explains Carrie Craft, Verywell Family, “but if that proves impossible, he would be placed for adoption.” The latter is true in 30 percent of cases. These situations are typically handled one of two ways:

  • Fost-Adopt: This is when a child is placed in a foster home with the expectation that the birth parents’ parental rights will be terminated and the child will be legally adopted by their foster parents.
  • Free to Adopt: When birth parents’ parental rights are terminated, but the child is not adopted by their foster parents, the child becomes “legally free to adopt.”

The goal of foster care is always to find a loving family for the child. Sometimes this means reuniting with their birth parents, sometimes this means their foster parents adopting them, and sometimes this means they are adopted by a different family altogether. 


Adoption, unlike fostering, is always permanent. The birth parents have voluntarily relinquished their parental rights, and “the adoptive family becomes responsible for the child in every way,” says Brodd. “This is a permanent change in legal status and the adoptive family receives full responsibility for raising the child.” Because of this, birth parent involvement varies drastically from adoption to adoption.

  1. In an Open Adoption, birth parents continue to have some degree of contact with the child. “Type of contact can include the exchange of pictures or gifts; communication via e-mail, letters, Skype, or telephone; and face-to-face meetings,” explains Harold D. Grotevant.
  2. In a Closed Adoption, birth parents have no contact at all. In some instances, the adoptive parents might not even know the name of the birth parents.

Want to Explore Your Options Further?

If you are looking for help, advice, or just need someone to talk to, Adoption Makes Family is here to listen! We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland. Our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.

24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100

If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at or use our online contact form.


  1. Brodd, Tanya. “Guardianship vs. Adoption vs. Foster Care.” Fostering Rights,
  2. Craft, Carrie. “The Parental Rights of Foster and Adopted Parents.” Verywell Family, 5 June 2020, 
  3. Grotevant, Harold D., et al. “Contact Between Adoptive and Birth Families: Perspectives From the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project.” Child Development Perspectives, vol. 7, no. 3, Dec. 2013, pp. 193–198., doi:10.1111/cdep.12039.
  4. “What Is the Difference between Adoption and Long-Term Fostering?”,
  5. “What’s The Difference Between Foster Care And Adoption?” Adoption from the Heart, 20 Nov. 2015,
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