Foster Care vs. Adoption in Virginia

What is the Difference between Foster Care and Adoption?


Opening up your home to a child in need of support and stability is one of the most rewarding ways you can make an impact. Oftentimes, adults who are interested in foster care or adoption wonder about various options and the difference between them.

What is Foster Care?

Children enter foster care when a court determines they can no longer live safely in their family home.  The primary reasons children enter care in Virginia are severe abuse and neglect. Other reasons range from a child’s behavior problems to death of a parent, or incarceration. Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution until a child can be returned to his/her family of origin.

Most children in foster care are placed in the home of a non-related caregiver, more commonly referred to as a foster parent. Foster parents are responsible for providing a safe and stable environment and receive payment for the child’s daily care. Learn more about how much foster parents get paid.

Foster parents are part of a team that includes the birth parents, local department of social services, social workers, courts and other community partners. The team works together to support the needs of the child and implement the plan to achieve stability, safety and family reunification. As a vital part of the team, Foster parents ensure the child’s day to day needs are met and facilitate visits between children and their biological families.

Foster care is temporary and short term until the child’s safety and well-being have been secured. Family reunification is the primary goal for children in foster care and typically children transition from foster care to the following situations:

  • Reunification with their biological parents
  • Placement or custody transfer to a relative
  • Permanent placement into adoptive home
  • Emancipation at age 18

What is Adoption?

In comparison to temporary foster care, adoption occurs when an adult is granted permanent parental custody, including all legal rights and responsibility in raising the child until they turn 18.

Adoptions may happen between relatives or strangers, through a private or public adoption agency, adoption attorney or adoption facilitator. Domestic and international adoptions are both very common.  As you can see, there are many road maps to becoming adoptive parents; however, UMFS only provides adoption for children in foster care.

UMFS Foster Care & Adoption

UMFS’ Treatment Foster Care Program utilizes specialized training to educate foster parents on the different ways they can effectively care for teens and sibling groups who have been in the foster care system for several years. These children have experienced multiple placements and/or the pain of being separated from their natural supports.

Learn more about Treatment Foster Care

UMFS offers adoption services through our partnership with various local department of social service agencies throughout Virginia. Many of these children face a variety of emotional needs,  and UMFS is honored to provide support to adoptive parents who face the unique challenges associated with this fulfilling journey.

Learn more about our adoption services

For more information on how you can make a difference in a child’s life through foster care adoption, contact us today!

UMFS has 8 locations throughout the state of Virginia, spread conveniently across the Commonwealth. If you are interested in learning what is involved to become a foster parent, we encourage you to send us an inquiry, or contact UMFS at any of these locations: