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Fostering or Adoption?

March 8, 2019 | matt

Fostering and adopting a child are often confused as the same thing.  If you’re wondering how to adopt a child or thinking about becoming a foster carer, we hope this article helps break down the difference.

Fostering or adopting a child is a truly rewarding experience.  There’s a lot to consider and you’ve probably been thinking about this for a while, but let’s start by explaining exactly what fostering and adoption are.

Adoption is usually for very young children (under 5).  Applicants go through a thorough assessment usually lasting about 6 months and the matching process (process of adopting a child) can take years.  Once the adoption is complete you are legally responsible for that young person, with the same rights and responsibilities as a birth parent.

Fostering is for supporting children of all ages.  Although Cambridge says, ‘usually for a limited time’, the reality is that long-term fostering is most carer’s preferred option.  Long-term foster care usually means supporting a child through to adulthood.  Even short-term fostering is technically anything up to 2 years!  Fostering assessments take about 4 months to complete and the matching process is usually very quick – a month or two in most cases.

Here’s a few questions to consider before deciding whether adoption or fostering is right for you;

  • Why am I thinking about this?  What’s my motivation?

Do you want to raise a child from very young as part of your family? Adoption could be the right fit for you.  Remember, adoption should be final so you’re committing to look after that child until adulthood.
Do you want to support vulnerable children who haven’t experienced childhood as they should? It’s got to be Fostering.  You can potentially help dozens of children as a foster parent.  Check out Maureen’s story from Falkirk.

  • Can I afford it?

Just like having your own children, you should be financially stable and comfortable with the inevitable expense child-caring will bring.  You do not receive any allowance when adopting however you may be able to access some financial support from the agency or charity you adopt through.  Foster carers are paid career-level allowances to care for the children they look after and receive tax exemptions from the government.  However, there is no payment when you are not looking after a child.

  • What support do I receive?

Adopters in England can apply for support from the Adoption Support Fund, which starts with an assessment by the local authority to look at your family’s support needs.  You are classed as the legal parent, so support isn’t as forthcoming as it is for foster carers.  Make sure you ask what support is available post-adoption as each agency/charity is different.
Foster carers are responsible for upbringing of the children, but legal parenting responsibility rests with the child’s local authority (ie. Lancashire Council, Wolverhampton Council etc).  Our foster carers access 24/7 support from their social worker, in-house support services for the children and in-house therapy from therapists and a clinical psychologist – all forming the team around the child (TAC).

  • Where do my skills lie?  What am I good at?

This is a bit general as similar skills are used with adoptive and foster parents.  If you have a wealth of experience with troubled youth and teenagers, fostering needs you.
If your skill set is with pre-primary aged children, toddlers or babies – adoption might work best.  70% of adopted children in England last year were aged 1-4.

Fostering shouldn’t be seen as a route leading to adoption, it may be that the children you foster don’t need to be adopted.

We should also say that you can still foster babies, toddlers and very young children.  However, 62% of children in care are aged 10-17 so go into it with your eyes open. 


For further reading about adoption from a trustworthy source, we recommend checking our Coram BAAF or Adoption UK Charity.  To learn more about fostering, check out our FAQ's page or get in touch for a friendly chat.


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