What are the benefits of adoption / fostering – and which suits you best?
There’s no such thing as ’perfect parenting’, as different children need different parenting styles. You can parent your own forever family, the way that’s most appropriate and meets your family’s needs. Depending on your own life story, your parenting style may be completely differently to the way you were raised.
This may challenge your extended family members, who are less aware of the needs of your child. So long as you create a warm and loving attachment with your children, meet their basic needs, provide reassurance, comfort and security, then you are likely to build strong foundations for your attachment.
For looked after children, being linked with adoptive parents and foster carers, can offer long term stability. However, they may also experience feelings of grief when placements end and guilt if they have to be separated from their siblings. They may also feel guilty about feeling attached to parents and carers who aren’t their birth family.
Prospective adopters can access a wealth of information of their child(ren’s) past medical and family history. Foster carers are rarely presented with such information from the outset and may only find out detailed information as the placement progresses. As an adopter or foster carer you may be able to bring your own life experiences into play, parenting the child(ren) as they grow up. However, no amount of paperwork can capture all of a child’s experiences and adopters and foster carers often work hard to help their children identify why certain things act as a trigger to their behaviours.
The decision to adopt or foster is one that can’t be entered into lightly – adopters and foster cares play a key role in helping build the self-confidence and identity of vulnerable children and young people. In England one in seven adoptions in 2019 were to same-sex couples. Unfortunately there’s no comparable on the number of LGBTQ+ people who foster, although individual agencies may share their data when trying to encourage more LGBTQ+ people to apply.
The key differences between adoption and fostering are that the former is not time limited and legal responsibility for the child completely passes over to you as the parent. Adoption leads to a withdrawal of social services from the child’s life, in terms of routine monitoring visits. Adoptive parents can make decisions about medical treatment and schooling without involving social services – unless they want to. Until the adoption order is finalised legal responsibility for the child is shared between social services and the adoptive parents.
Fostering is a more flexible approach to building your family – as foster carers can choose to offer respite care or short-term placements – but it comes with less permanence and the possibility that the child may quickly return to their parents if their circumstances change. Legally, foster carers are responsible for meeting the needs of the child and are monitored and held accountable by the state. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea that while you can input into decisions for the child you care for, you may be overruled by social services then fostering may not be for you.
In recent years a third model of family-building has developed – sometimes called ‘foster to adopt’ – where potential adopters act as foster carers to an infant in care who is likely to have adoption as their long-term care plan. Once adoption is decided by the courts as the appropriate care plan for the child the carers who were fostering to adopt can move to legally adopt the child.
Ultimately, the choice between adoption, fostering and fostering to adopt is only one that you and your family can make. Once you’ve evaluated which journey best meets your needs we strongly advise talking to a number of different agencies – you all need to feel comfortable as you move forward and agencies can have a different tone and environment to them.