What's the difference between adoption and fostering?

Many wonder about the difference between fostering and adoption. Here, our foster carer and adoptive mum, Naomi, explains the differences she's found in both journeys.

In the early days, when we were first considering extending our family, we trawled the internet looking for information and answers and knew we wanted to foster or adopt. Initially it was all a little overwhelming as we didn't fully understand the differences between the two. When we spoke with one of the social workers at Newcastle, we were given great advice and some food for thought and then had a rough idea of what each option entailed. We decided that adoption was right for us at that stage.

We had 1 birth child and knew that our family wasn't complete. Although we would have loved to foster, we knew that, at that time, we wouldn't have been able to love a child and let them go (be that through reunification with their birth family, to a different foster carer or to adoption). Fast forward a few years and with both our daughters settled and thriving we decided that our little family was complete, but we still had plenty of love and time to spare. We got in touch with Newcastle again and discussed fostering. Suffice to say, that went well, and we've now been fostering for over a year and have looked after 2 children so far.

We are short term carers, so children would usually only stay with us for a few months while plans are made for their future, but it's possible to foster children longer term. As much as we'd have loved to have a child long term, it wasn't really an option for us due to the young ages of our birth children and needing to foster children under 3 years old (for whom the plan would likely be reunification or adoption). Respite is another option, for those who may not be able to look after children on either a short term or long-term basis, and respite carers are always hugely needed and valued! There are lots of ways to foster, all you need to do is ask. 

Since we started fostering, our first child moved to a different foster carer after 3 months with us, and our 2nd child has now been with us over a year and is due to move to her new parents in a few weeks. Without a doubt there have been challenges along the way, and we have had much to learn, but it has been wonderful, and we feel privileged to have been a part of these children's, and their families, lives.

So, for me, the main differences are that with adoption the children become a permanent part of your family. Their ties with their birth family are severed in most cases, but these do remain an integral part of the child's history and identity. With fostering, you know from the first day that this child is just borrowed. They have their own family and it is our job, and we owe it to the children, to support their relationships with them. We know that the children we welcome into our homes, and whom we love and adore, will not be ours forever. I won't lie and say there aren't days where my mind wanders and I long for them to stay with us forever, but ultimately as a foster carer my job is to love and support them until they go to their forever family; by whichever means is right for the child.

 

I've lost count of how many times people have remarked that they “couldn't do it, they'd get too attached” but surely that's precisely the right reason to do it! We love each child like our own and loving them means truly integrating them into our whole family, knowing that the child will leave us one day. Our hearts will be broken again when our current little one leaves us, but we have prepared ourselves for it, and knowing that her new family will adore her just as we have makes it all worthwhile. 

If you are unsure whether fostering or adoption is the right choice for you, consider whether you would be willing to become a part of the child's family or would you want to be their new family? When fostering a child, parental responsibility is usually shared between the local authority and the birth family. This means you are not able to make many of the decisions about their care, but you do have the benefit of lots of support. If you adopt, then you will (eventually) have full parental responsibility for that child, but you won’t usually receive any ongoing financial support. 

Having experienced both adoption and fostering I can say that both have been the right decision for us, just at different times in our lives. We feel so lucky to have adopted the most perfect little girl, have fostered 2 beautiful children so far, and hopefully will continue to foster for a long time to come. It truly is rewarding and a privilege to care for children that are so very deserving of our love and support. 

If you, like Naomi, would like to continue making a difference to the life of a child, contact us today and begin your fostering journey.