What is the difference between adoption and long-term fostering?
Adoption and long-term fostering are both situations which can provide a permanent home for a child, but there are some differences.
Adoption is a process which legally removes the rights and responsibilities of the child's birth parent(s), and transfers them to adoptive parent(s). The child will lose all rights of inheritance from their birth family, and will take the surname of their adoptive family.
Adopters receive support from the social services department which places the child with them, and/or the voluntary agency which has approved them as adopters, until an adoption order is made. They can then receive post-adoption support from the agency that approved them, e.g. Barnardo's or other specialist agencies at their request.
In the past adoption was mainly used when placing very young children. There are now very few children under two years old placed for adoption, and most agencies are more involved in placing children from two to 12 years old for adoption.
When older children, children in family groups or children with disabilities are placed for adoption, social services may offer an adoption allowance, although these are sometimes dependent on the adoptive parent(s) income.
In recent years, there has been recognition of the importance of maintaining children's 'links' with their birth family, and this may involve an exchange of letters and photographers, or some limited face-to-face contact with the child's birth family members.
Fostering does not provide the same legal security for either the foster carers or the child, and would usually only continue until the children and young people are 18. However it means the child can keep their ties with their birth family, who may remain involved in any important decisions being made about their child, and would usually be encouraged to have regular contact with their child. When a child is fostered, foster carers will be asked to work in partnership with social workers as well as the child's birth family.
Foster carers will be offered regular support and training by their social worker and will be paid a weekly allowance to cover the cost of caring for the child. Some agencies pay additional rates for teenagers, children with disabilities or children with emotional or behaviour problems.