Adoption vs. Foster Care: What’s the Difference?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

October 5, 2022

Many children in North Carolina cannot live with their biological parents. For those kids, foster care and adoption can provide stable and loving homes.

If you are interested in fostering or adopting a child, you should start by learning the characteristics of each and deciding which is best for you and your family.

Here’s an overview of Adoption and Foster care in North Carolina:

Adoption & Foster Care

Both adoption and foster care offer homes to children who are unable to live with their biological families. But there are some distinct differences.

What Is Adoption?

Adoption is a legal process through which a child is permanently placed with an adoptive family. The adoptive parents have the right to make parenting decisions involving education, medical care, and other important issues facing a child.

Adoptive parents’ duties to their adoptive children are the same as biological children. They must meet the needs and provide financially for their adoptive child until that child reaches adulthood.

Adoption creates a permanent family situation where the child lives with one set of parents. Ties to their biological family may or may not be severed. The state may make some follow-up visits to ensure the adoption is successful, but there is little involvement by the court or government after an adoption is finalized.

Requirements to Adopt

According to the North Carolina Kids Adoption and Foster Care Network, parents who wish to adopt a child must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Pass a criminal background check

You may adopt whether you are single or married, and there are no specific training requirements.

What Is Foster Care?

Foster care provides a temporary home for a child, where the long-term goal is typically to return to their biological families. The goal of foster parents is to prepare children to reunite with their birth parents.

Foster parents should be emotionally prepared for the child to return to their biological families. However, foster care often occurs for an indeterminate time – from days to years – and can last until a child becomes a legal adult.

Most children in the North Carolina foster care system can reunite with their parents eventually. After that, state and social workers typically continue working with those families to improve situations and parenting skills.

Eligibility to Foster a Child

According to the North Carolina Department of Social Services, to provide foster care for a child, parents must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a stable home
  • Have reliable income
  • Maintain a drug-free home
  • Have a criminal background check
  • Complete training and licensing by North Carolina

Can A Foster Child Be Adopted?

Yes, a foster child can be adopted in certain situations. However, that is never the state’s primary goal.

A child in foster care is only available for adoption when a court terminates the biological parent’s parental rights. The court may not terminate parental rights simply because the foster parents are better suited to care for the child. The court decides about parental rights independent of whether adoption is appropriate. After parental rights are terminated, the state may determine if a foster child can be adopted.

Financial Subsidies for Foster Care & Adoption

Both foster parents and adoptive parents are eligible for financial assistance in North Carolina. Thus, even adopted children may qualify for funds until they reach adulthood.

The amount and type of financial assistance are similar for both adoptive and foster families. Older children and those with special needs may be able to receive higher amounts of assistance to meet their additional needs.

Expenses that financial subsidies may cover include:

  • Adoption agency and foster care placement costs
  • Home study, post-placement, and court reporting expenses
  • Medical and travel costs for the birth mother and child
  • Counseling services for the birth mother and child
  • Legal services, court costs, and administrative expenses
  • Paternity testing fees
  • Living expenses for a birth mother through pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth

How Much Does a Foster Care Adoption Cost?

The cost of foster care adoption varies. However, it is generally much lower than traditional adoption. This is because you likely already have much of what’s necessary to care for the child, and you have already undergone much of the state’s approval process by being a foster parent. Additionally, there are financial assistance programs for people who go through foster care adoption rather than private adoption agencies.

Can Children in Foster Care Be Returned to Their Parents?

The goal of the foster care system is to keep families intact. So, it is possible and their priority to return foster children to their biological parents. The state also provides parents with various resources to restore their parental rights and responsibilities.

A North Carolina Family Lawyer Can Help

A family lawyer can help you decide if foster care or adoption is right for you. They can also guide you through being approved to adopt or foster a child. If any legal issues arise, it is best to have an attorney on your side who has been there since the beginning. This can reduce the time in which things get resolved.

With offices in Angier, Garner, Smithfield, and Raleigh, North Carolina, call the Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 today.


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