What’s the Difference Between Foster Care and Private Adoption?

When families begin to research the adoption process, they can be immediately overwhelmed by the long list of possible ways to add a child to their family. Among the many choices, families tend to gravitate toward two different methods: foster care and private adoption.

Deciding which route is best for your family can be a challenge, particularly if you don’t have all of the information readily available. There are some significant differences in pursuing each of these paths to a finalized adoption and adding a new member to your family.

Prospective families should be aware of the distinct differences between foster care and private adoption. Prior to beginning the paperwork, you should research both possibilities to see which one fits your family the best.

Foster Care

Many families are first drawn toward foster care because they have a heart for children in need. A child who is placed into the foster care system has been removed from their biological family due to concerns for their safety and well-being. Child protective services may have gotten involved due to abuse or neglect allegations, and the children may be of any age. Some foster families prefer to accept placements of older children or teenagers who are in this situation.

In most instances, the children who are in foster care have been exposed to terrible circumstances and suffered considerable trauma. This may present itself through behavioral and emotional concerns that an adoptive family will need to work through during the child’s first months or years in the home.

The first goal of foster care is always reunification with the biological family whenever possible. Eventually, this may move toward adoption, but it should be noted that a permanent adoption isn’t always a guarantee for foster families. If you feel that your family may not be able to handle reuniting a child with their biological parents, foster care probably isn’t the right route for you. This is the primary difference between foster care and a private adoption.

You may still pursue adoption through your state agency, even if foster care isn’t right for you. This allows you to adopt a child who was once a part of the foster care system without the potential heartbreak of reunification. While many children celebrate the ability to return to their birth families, there can be considerable sadness involved for a potential adoptive family if this occurs.

Once you are selected by the state as an adoptive family for a child, you will eventually finalize that adoption in court. At this point, many adoptive families are afraid of the myth that birth parents can come back to “take” the child away. This common misperception is rather prevalent but wholly untrue.

Keep in mind that many of the children who are legally free for adoption are older. A prospective adoptive family who is positive they would like an infant may want to consider private adoption instead.

Private Adoption

Private adoption is significantly different from foster care in almost every way possible. The primary difference is that the biological parents (or birth parents) will make a conscious decision to create an adoption plan for their baby. No state agencies are involved in the decision-making process.

The birth parents may decide not to raise their child for a number of reasons, including financial instability, mental health issues, or age. In an attempt to give their child the best possible advantages in life, they make a courageous sacrifice to allow another family to raise their little one.

An adoption through a state agency will almost always be closed, meaning that the adoptive family will not maintain contact with the birth parents. However, openness is a topic that can be discussed with a private adoption. Some birth mothers and fathers will want to receive pictures, have visits, or write letters to the child as he or she grows older.

In some situations, this could be beneficial for the child. Openness within the adoption triad can help to satiate their natural curiosity about their birth parents and family. This will be a conversation that you and your partner will need to have as you work through your adoption process. Not all private adoptions have to be open but the potential is there.

A child who is placed for adoption in this way is not often exposed to the same degree of trauma that a child in foster care will face. They may be perfectly loved and cared for throughout the pregnancy, and the transition to a prospective adoptive home may be completely seamless. The emotional aspect of this adoption scenario is usually easier for children to manage as they age.

A private adoption will be facilitated through your attorney or a private adoption agency and finalized in court. Once this occurs, you are the legal parents of this new child and nothing can change that. It will be your legal responsibility to love them and provide for them throughout their childhood.

As mentioned, private adoption typically caters toward younger children and infants. The most common scenario involves a birth mother making a bold and sacrificial decision to create an adoption plan for her baby before she even gives birth. This gives adoptive parents an opportunity to get to know her and learn about the child’s history before the baby makes its grand entrance into the world.

No matter which path you pursue, you will be providing a much-needed home to a child who wants a life full of love and stability. Carefully consider which route is right for your family and what you may be able to handle before proceeding. Both routes to adoption involve a huge commitment to a child and building your family through the precious gift of adoption.

If you have questions about how private adoption works, try reaching out to a local adoption agency for more information. They may be able to answer any key questions you have or steer you in the right direction for more information on either process.

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