A foster care placement has two sides. Long-term placements can help the child to experience love and to feel safe and secure. The child is part of the family and can flourish. But this may be a temporary placement as long as the goal of reuniting with the parents is possible. It does happen that the plan to reunite has to be abandoned. The biological parents may be stripped of any parental rights. If you have been fostering a child for years and this happens, you may suddenly be confronted with the decision to continue as you are, with a long-term placement, or to adopt your foster child.
Having to make a choice between adoption and long-term fostering can be difficult as there are marked differences between the two. How do you decide what is best for the child and for your family? In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of continued long-term care versus adoption.
Reasons Children Stay in Long-term Placements When they are Eligible for Adoption
With permanent foster care, the agency will continue to pay for the child to be cared for in a fostering situation. Upon reaching 18 years of age, the child may be ‘aged out’ of foster care and need to look for a home and job to support themselves. If the child is adopted, they will move from foster care to being a permanent member of the adoptive family.
The reasons for staying in long term fostering when adoption is an option could depend on the child or the foster carers, as well as the courts. The latter institute a reunification plan that outlines what biological parents have to do to be reunited with their children. Even when it appears that this is not likely to occur, adoption cannot proceed while the plan is in force. The fostering agency cannot change the outcome.
The Pros of Long-Term Foster Care
The biggest pro of long-term foster care for foster carers is that they will continue to receive a fostering allowance. This will be terminated if they adopt the foster child. The state will no longer provide benefits and the agency will not be in a position to provide other types of support, such as parental training.
Another pro is when the child decides against adoption. They may wish to retain the hope of reunification with their parents. Other parties have to respect this.
The Cons of Long-Term Foster Care
There are more cons than pros to not adopting and continuing with the foster care relationship. Foster carers are affected by the most by the first one. This involves their legal rights where the foster child is concerned. They may be the child’s legal guardians but there are many areas where they have no say. The biological parents still retain the right to make large medical decisions regarding the child’s health and can choose the child’s religion.
The foster child can be placed elsewhere. Foster carers have no expectation that the child can remain with them permanently. This is truly difficult once a bond has been formed.
When a child is adopted, they become legally eligible to share in the adoptive parents’ estates. But without this legal standing, the child might be needing to find a home of their own when they turn 18 years old. Even though they may have been with the foster carers for a decade or more, they cannot claim anything from there estate should they die.
Adoption gives the child a feeling of permanency and home.