Fostering vs Adoption - What's the difference?


Understanding the difference between fostering and Adoption: Making the right choice for you.

As a prospective foster parent or adoptive parent, it’s important to understand the differences between fostering and adoption to make an informed decision. Both fostering and adopting a child offer a chance to help vulnerable children and young people. It’s important to note that at Capstone we specialise in fostering, and do not offer Adoption or Foster-to-Adopt services. When choosing whether to foster or adopt, there are significant differences to consider.

In our helpful guide we’ll explain the difference between fostering vs adopting a child including;

  • The differences between the application process
  • The demand for foster parents or adoptive parents
  • What happens when you bring a child home
  • Cost differences between fostering and adopting a child
  • Adopting from fostering

So, should you choose to foster or adopt? Let’s look at the differences between becoming a foster parent and an adoptive parent.

Fostering Vs Adoption: What’s the difference?

The main difference between fostering and adoption is that while fostering can be long-term, it can also be temporary or short-term. Whilst adoption is usually permanent.

The other main difference between adoption and fostering is that although you are in the role of a parent as a foster carer, the local authority and the child’s original parents or guardians retain responsibility for the child too. In contrast, when you adopt a child, you assume full legal parental responsibility, and the child or young person becomes a legal member of your family permanently.  

Fostering vs Adoption Approval Process: What are the requirements?

If you’re interested in adopting or fostering, it’s important to understand what is required for each option.  

Foster parent approval process

The main requirements to become a foster parent include meeting the key criteria:

  • Over the age of 21
  • In good health
  • Have a spare bedroom in your home
  • Full time resident in the UK
  • Able to provide support and care for a child or young person

We often get the question “Can I foster if…?” and our helpful guide covers most of these queries. However, if you have any other questions our helpful team will be happy to advise.

If you meet the initial key criteria you’ll be assessed for your suitability to become a foster carer, which will include the Form F Assessment and home visit.  

Adoption approval process

When applying to become an adoptive parent there is also key criteria that needs to be met.

  • Must have lived in the UK for a minimum of one year
  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • One partner must have a permanent home in the UK, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man
  • Must undergo a two-part assessment and preparation process

Also, the child’s birth parents must both agree to consent to the adoption, unless:

  • They cannot be found
  • They are incapable of giving consent
  • The child would be at risk if they were not adopted

To apply to adopt, you must go through a two-stage adoption process. The goal of the two-part process is to help would-be adopters get ready to apply to adopt in six months’ time. The first part involves learning about what adoption entails as well as giving the adoption agency time to check each applicant’s references - this takes about two months.

The second part takes about four months and is an extension of the assessment process, during which the potential adopters are prepared for the application process.

Demand for fostering a child vs adopting a child

One difference between fostering and adoption is that of demand. There are approximately 75,000 children and young people in foster care in the UK. Of these, 6,800 need a foster home, and this number is rising every year. On the other hand, there are slightly fewer children who need adoption every year, around 6,000 with 2,950 children adopted in 2022.

Foster v Adopt – Bringing a child home

When you are approved as a foster carer, your first placement is likely to take place quite quickly. This is because there are many foster children who need a home as soon as possible.

In contrast, adopters may not find a suitable match as quickly. If a match in your geographical area is not found within a three-month period, your information goes to the National Adoption Register. The National Adoption Register matches children waiting to be adopted with approved adopters.

When you bring your foster child home, you’ll be working together as a team with your social worker and support network here at Capstone to meet the key fostering outcomes outlined in the “Every Child Matters” initiative. These include:

  • Make a positive contribution
  • Economic well being
  • Enjoy and achieve
  • Being healthy
  • Staying safe

To help you in your fostering career, we also provide a wealth of training and support in both a personal and professional capacity, in order to support you and your foster child. Including our own bespoke training and support for therapeutic fostering placements.

In adoption, you are transferred full legal parental rights - there will be initial contact with a support network from your local authority’s post-adoption team. You will also be entitled to adoption leave, which is similar to maternity leave, allowing time off work to care for the child.

Cost differences between fostering and adopting a child

The cost differences between fostering a child and adopting a child can vary widely. The main difference is with adoption. Typically, you pay to adopt a child. However, this price depends on several factors including adoption agency fees. With fostering, because it’s a career, you are paid for the skills needed to take care of a child - this will vary in cost whether you are fostering with an independent agency or local authority, the age of the child and type of fostering.

Adoption allowance

Adoptive parents may be eligible for an adoption allowance, which is a means-tested payment to help with the costs of raising an adopted child.

The cost of adoption

Adopting a child can be an expensive process. The application process to adopt with the Independent Adoption Panel has a price tag of between £4,000 and £9,000. In addition, you need to pay the Department of Education £885 to process your application and provide your Certificate of Eligibility. If your income exceeds £45,000, this fee goes up to £1,775. The average total cost of adopting a child in the UK ranges between £10,000 to £15,000. This includes costs such as agency fees, legal fees, and the cost of background checks and home studies.

It’s important to remember that the decision whether to foster or adopt a child should not be based on cost alone. The main priority should be to provide a safe and loving home.

Post-adoption support fund

Some adoptive parents will be eligible for the Adoption Support Fund, which is a government funded scheme that provides financial support for therapeutic services for children who have been adopted.

Fostering allowance

The fostering allowance is a payment received by foster carers to cover the cost of caring for a child. In an independent fostering agency - like Capstone – foster carers will also be paid for their time and skills in looking after a child. The amount paid will depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The child’s needs
  • The age of the child
  • Whether the child is fostered through an independent fostering agency, like Capstone, or through a local authority.

The minimum fostering allowance is between £137 and £240 a week through a local authority. Through Capstone, standard payments start at £400 a week. For more information on how much foster parents get paid, read our full guide.

Can foster parents adopt?

The goal of fostering is not usually adoption, although it does sometimes happen. Typically, foster children do not become available for adoption. If you do foster a child who becomes adoptable, there are a couple of factors to consider.

First of all, being approved as a foster carer is not the same as being approved as an adoptive parent, so you will have to go through the approval process to adopt. You’ll also need to consider how your relationship with the original family may affect the adoption process.

An option for some foster parents who wish to adopt is “Fostering for Adoption” where children in care are being assessed with a view to adoption as an outcome. Potential adopters may foster the child while the decision is being made as this protects the child from being moved repeatedly.

This happens when the local authority or fostering agency reviews approved adopters and accepts them as temporary foster carers for the child. This is known as dual approval. The dual approval family are treated as foster carers, which means that the local authority and birth family have parental responsibility. The foster carers are paid a fostering allowance. However, adoption is not guaranteed, and there is the risk of the final decision being that the child will not be adopted.

Concurrent planning

Concurrent planning is similar to fostering for adoption in that the potential adopter fosters until the decision is made about the child’s future. Concurrent planning refers to babies and toddlers under the age of two, and the same approach as with fostering for adoption holds true.

The concurrent carer is a foster carer while the decision is being made, and as such, must work with the birth parents during the assessment. If the court decides that adoption is the best solution, the child stays with the concurrent carer, who is then able to adopt the child.

Foster vs Adopt – It’s a tough decision

Whether to foster vs adopt is a difficult decision. Choosing between fostering and adoption ultimately depends on your individual circumstances and goals. Both options give children and young people the opportunity to benefit from stability and support in a loving home. Both fostering and adoption have their own unique challenges and benefits, so you should carefully consider your own situation before making a decision.

If you still need help deciding, or want to know more information about the difference between fostering and adoption, get in touch with a member of our helpful team here at Capstone Foster Care.

Thinking of fostering?

If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
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