There are children in North Carolina and throughout the world that may not be able to live with their parents. Children who are in need of a good home receive care through both foster care and adoption. If you’re considering opening your home to a child or children who need care, you might wonder what the differences are between foster care and adoption. In North Carolina, there are some key differences between foster care and adoption. If you’re interested in foster care, adoption or both, it’s important to understand what each type of care means and what’s involved. Here are the key differences between foster parenting and adoption in North Carolina:
Adoption is a permanent home
When a child is adopted, they become the legal child of the parents who adopt them. Any ties to the biological family are severed. The adoptive parents have the right to make all parenting decisions for the child. They must care for the child and provide financially until the child reaches the age of majority. Adoption is a permanent status. Except for possible follow-up visits shortly after the adoption is complete, the state doesn’t have any involvement with a family after an adoption.
Foster care is a temporary placement
Unlike adoption, foster care is a temporary home for a child. In almost all foster care placements, the long-term goal is to see that the child is reunited with their legal parents. The care that foster parents provide serves the goal of preparing the children to reunite with their parents.
Most children who are in foster care eventually reunite with their parents. The legal parents work with state social workers in order to address their difficulties and improve their parenting skills. A placement in foster care may last only a few days, or it may last a year or more. It’s important for foster parents to go into parenting understanding that most children eventually return to their biological parents. It’s important for foster parents to be emotionally prepared for this possibility and direct their parenting efforts towards helping children with the challenges of living apart from their parents with the goal of eventually reuniting.
When is a child in foster care available for adoption?
A child in foster care is not available for adoption unless the court terminates parental rights. The court may not terminate a parent’s rights just because foster parents may be more suited to care for the child. Instead, one of the statutory grounds for termination under North Carolina law Article 11 – Termination of Parental Rights Section 7B-1111 must exist. The court must decide whether to terminate parental rights independent of determining whether an adoption is appropriate. That is, the court can’t terminate parental rights just because there’s a prospective adoptive family waiting in the wings. Only once the court terminates parental rights can they decide if adoption is appropriate for a child in foster care.
Financial subsidies are available for both foster care and adoptive care
Both foster care and adoptive parents may qualify for financial assistance. Even after an adoption, a child may qualify for financial assistance until they reach the age of adulthood. The financial assistance that children may receive is similar for both foster care and adoption. Older children and children with special needs can receive additional amounts to meet their needs.
Ages and qualifications to adopt
The qualifications to become a foster or adoptive parent are similar with the exception of age. Foster parents must be at least 21 years old while adoptive parents can be 18 years old or older. Both foster and adoptive parents may be married, single or divorced. They may own their home or rent. Foster and adoptive parents come in all shapes and sizes.
Training for foster parents
Foster parents must complete 30 hours of training. Foster parents complete training called Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence, and Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting. This training helps children address difficulties that come with abuse, neglect, and the trauma of parental separation. Unless a family adopts internationally, there’s no specific training requirement for North Carolina adoptions. Even though there are no formal requirements, all adoptive parents are encouraged to undergo training.
Licensing and home studies
For adoptions, there’s a home study process that parents must complete before the adoption can be approved. Once the home study is done and the adoption is complete, there may be a few follow-up visits. Generally, state involvement ends when an adoption is complete.
In foster care, parents must complete the relicensing process every two years. They must complete a Mutual Home Assessment. The Mutual Home Assessment is different than the home study that accompanies an adoption. State workers continue to be involved with foster parents while they provide care.
Behavior requirements during foster care
Foster parenting involves a number of rules that parents must follow at all times. The rules are designed to ensure that children receive appropriate care. For example, the foster home must not have any doors to the outside that need a key to open. They must have a working telephone that stays in the home even when the parent leaves the home with their cell phone. The home must have working water and sewer with appropriate draining in the shower or bath.
Bedrooms may not serve dual functions, and each child must have their own bed. Each child must have two sheets on their bed, a pillow with a pillowcase and blankets. There may not be more than five children in any foster home including biological children already in the home. There may be exceptions for large sibling groups.
Foster parents may expect quarterly visits to ensure that they comply with rules. Children in foster care almost always come from within the State of North Carolina. Foster parents may also need to facilitate visits with the children’s legal parents. They may need to take the children to counseling appointments, doctors appointments and other services as the court orders or as determined by social services.
These requirements aren’t meant to be a burden. Instead, they’re meant to ensure that children receive appropriate care. Foster parents have access to support services in order to help them meet their obligations and succeed in foster parenting.
Understanding the differences between foster parenting and adoption
There are key differences between foster parenting and adoption. While some foster parents adopt the children they foster, many children in foster care are not available for adoption. In addition, there are some key differences in procedures and requirements for each type of care. If you’re considering adoption or foster parenting, Bobby Mills can answer your questions and help you determine what’s best for you. Call us today or fill out our contact form to get started.