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Should I foster or adopt?

Monday 30 May 2022

Most foster parents don’t get into child fostering with the aim of adopting. On the other hand, many people who want to give children a good home might wonder if fostering or adoption is the right choice for them.

There are a few similarities between the process of becoming a foster carer and that of adoption, including:

  • You want to give a child a safe home where they can thrive.
  • There is a thorough application process to see if you’re suitable.

In the UK, 80,080 children are being looked after by a local authority.

The term ‘looked after child’ refers to The Children Act 1989. It means that a child, who can’t continue living at home for whatever reason, is the responsibility of the local authority. In this case, either a court has granted a care order to place a child in care, or a child has been in the care of the council’s children’s services team for more than 24 hours.

Recent government and leading sector data paint a stark picture: 80k+ looked after children live in residential homes and with foster carers (carers who are registered with the local authority and also independent fostering agencies like National Fostering Group).

Of these:

  • More than 8,000 children are looking for a foster home where they can thrive.
  • Only around 3,440 children who can’t return to their families were adopted.

Why is fostering important?

Some children need foster carers because it’s not possible for them to live at home. This can be due to neglect or abuse and sometimes this leads to long term fostering placement, which might feel permanent.

Fostering a child in the UK also covers instances when parents ask for extra support. They might be in ill health, for example, or need respite care for a child with special needs, or there’s a family emergency. This is often short term foster care.

Foster carers can choose from different types of fostering, depending on what they find suits their circumstances and preferences.

Does fostering feel like adoption?

Undoubtedly, close familial bonds can grow quickly in a fostering situation. Many of our foster carers and foster children use the word ‘love’ and this is completely normal.

By the way, it’s also normal to simply feel respect and care. But you can imagine how, with the right chemistry, a long term fostering placement can feel like a genuine family connection.

Many foster children use Staying Put to remain with families after the age of 18 and retain close emotional connections with them.

Long term fostering placements aim to give looked after children stability. However, even in this case, parental responsibility remains with the local authority.

When you’re fostering a child, your role is to provide a safe environment for your foster child and meet their needs according to their Care Plan and Placement Plan. Part of your role as a foster carer is to work with your supporting social worker and the local authority social worker to provide care and the best possible outcomes.

For the duration of a foster placement, the local authority will have legal responsibility for the foster child, usually sharing it with the child’s birth parents. Though the foster child lives with you – even, sometimes, for years – you don’t have parental rights when you foster a child.

As a foster carer with National Fostering Group, you continue to be in receipt of a generous fostering allowance, excellent free training, and superb support.

Adoption vs fostering

An adoption order grants a parent (or parents) legal responsibility for a child. For a period of time, the local authority will provide support to the new family. Generally, there will be no financial support for the adoption. If you’ve been fostering the child and in receipt of fostering allowance, this will usually cease.

In the last decade, while efforts have been made to simplify the adoption process, other elements have frustrated them – meaning the adoption rate has fallen since 2015 (see The Guardian, Why are adoption numbers falling, when there are so many children in need?).

Child fostering doesn’t naturally lead to adoption – this isn’t the purpose of foster care. However, to adopt a child in the UK, you will have spent time with them or even fostered them. It’s possible to adopt a child you’re fostering, if it’s deemed in their best interests.

A small number of our carers have adopted their foster child – like Carol, who adopted little Ryan, who was in long-term care, following a life-and-death hospital visit.

“I could not imagine life without him,” said Carol, “and that’s what it’s all about.”

Want to know more about fostering?

We’re one of the largest independent fostering agencies in the UK, with the resources to support and train you. As our foster carers say, it’s one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do.

When you go through the process of becoming a foster carer, you will work with your social worker to decide what’s right for you. If you’d like to find out more, enquire now.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.