What is Foster Care? How does it differ from adoption or legal guardianship? This post hopefully sheds light on some basic information about foster care you may or may not know. First, you may see me or hear people calling foster care parents “resource parents”. They are the same thing, just a different name.
The goal of foster care is to provide a safe, nurturing home for children; to provide children with stability and permanency (you’ll probably read that word a lot in my posts); and to reunite with biological family, when possible. It’s not just where juvenile delinquents go. Every child deserves a safe and loving environment to grow and when their biological family cannot, for whatever reason, provide such a place, that’s when the child is placed with a resource family.
Because permanency is so important, there will be a concurrent plan for each child. The first plan is to reunite with the biological parents or family. Studies have shown that children do better overall if they are raised within their biological family.
The backup plan is to find another suitable permanency option. This plan can be with the foster parents if they are open to adoption or legal guardianship. Or, the concurrent plan can be finding another family who is open to adoption or legal guardianship if the current resource family is not. Both plans can be worked through at the same time so that if the biological family does not succeed in providing a suitable home for the child, the second (or third) plan can be put into place.
Foster care is temporary; however, some children are in foster care until they become adults. Foster care parents can make “prudent parenting decisions” but legal custody of the child belongs to the county. For instance, with our first placement, we were authorized to bring her to the doctor when she was sick; however, we couldn’t sign the consent for her to have a minor procedure done while in the hospital (the physician deemed the procedure an emergency and was able to perform the procedure without getting a consent signed).
With legal guardianship, you have all the legal rights and responsibilities as a natural parent. On the other hand, the court and county social workers are still involved in overseeing the child’s care. For instance, if you decided to move, you would have to notify the courts or get permission to move out of state.
The most permanent solution is adoption. When an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are the parents. They have all legal rights and responsibilities as biological parents. They can change the child’s last name and the birth certificate is changed to reflect the adoptive parents and not the biological parents. There may be some follow-up visits by a social worker after the adoption is finalized to check on the status of the parent-child relationship but, it is usually only a couple evaluations. (I will cover more about different types of adoption in a later post.)
For more information, click on these links….