Foster Care vs. Adoption in Virginia

Foster Care vs. Adoption: What’s the Difference?

A father, a son, and a mother standing together. Choosing between foster care vs adoption can help you support children and teens in need.

With 5,000 children and teens in the Virginia foster care system, there are many opportunities for you to make a difference. Opening your home to a child or teen in need of support and stability can make a huge impact on a child’s life. 

There are two ways you can open your home to a child or teen in need: foster care and adoption. How do you know which method is right for you and the children you care for?

Below, you can find out more about foster care, adoption, and the differences between the two. You can also learn about ways UMFS can help with foster care and adoption services.

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 and teens enter care in Virginia are severe abuse and neglect. Other reasons can include a child’s behavior problems, the death of a parent, or incarceration. 

Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution. The ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite a child with his or her family of origin.

Most children and teens in foster care are placed in the home of a non-related caregiver. This caregiver is more commonly referred to as a foster parent. Foster parents are responsible for providing a safe and stable environment for a foster child. Foster parents 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 following: 

  • Birth parents
  • The local department of social services
  • Social workers
  • Courts and other community partners

This team works together to support the needs of the child. They also create and implement a plan to achieve stability, safety, and family reunification. 

As a vital part of the team, foster parents ensure the child or teen’s day-to-day needs are met. They also facilitate visits between children and their biological families.

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

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

What is Adoption?

In contrast to temporary foster care, adoption occurs when an adult is granted permanent parental custody. Permanent custody includes all the legal rights and responsibilities of raising a child or teen until they turn 18. Permanent custody versus temporary placement is one of the main differences between foster care and adoption.

Unlike with foster care, adoptive parents are not paid to care for a child or teen. Once a child or teen is adopted, you are personally financially responsible for them. However, depending on your situation and the situation of your child, you might be eligible for an adoption subsidy.

Furthermore, adoption doesn’t require the same “team effort” foster parenting does. This could mean that creating a support system might involve more effort on the part of adoptive parents.

Adoptions may happen between relatives or strangers, through a public or private adoption agency, or an adoption attorney or adoption facilitator. Domestic and international adoptions are both very common.  

While there are many ways to become an adoptive parent, UMFS only provides adoption for children and teens in foster care. If you are looking to adopt outside of the foster care system, we suggest looking into the following resources:

UMFS Foster Care & Adoption

UMFS’ Treatment Foster Care Program educates foster parents about different ways they can effectively care for teens and sibling groups. These children have often been in the foster care system for several years. They 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 departments of social service agencies throughout Virginia. Many of these children face a variety of emotional needs. UMFS is honored to provide support to adoptive parents who face the unique challenges associated with this fulfilling journey.

Again, please note that UMFS only provides services for adopting a child from foster care.

Learn more about our adoption services

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

UMFS has eight locations throughout the state of Virginia, spread conveniently across the Commonwealth. If you’re interested in learning how to become a foster parent, please send us an inquiry. You can also contact UMFS at any of these locations:

Find out if foster parenting is right for you and your family.

Learn More About Becoming a Foster Parent