Adopting vs Fostering: What Are the Differences?

Two adults and a child posing for a photo.

Both adoption and fostering provide homes to thousands of children in Illinois every year. These solutions have helped countless families throughout the state achieve their dreams of extending their family. Both options involve legal processes aimed at placing children in stable, loving homes, and therefore come with certain requirements aimed at protecting the child’s best interests. However, there are some differences depending on whether you are navigating the foster system or not that may determine which process is right for you and your family.

Adopting in Illinois

The adoption process is fairly straightforward. You may file a Petition for Adoption with the court, which involves an adoption agency interviewing you and examining your home before placing a child with you. Your commitment and attitude will be considered, in addition to the needs of the child. The agency often makes a request before a judge, who can choose to grant you an interim order of custody.

Before the adoption is complete, the child is typically in the home of the adoptive parent or family for at least six months. This trial period helps ensure that the relationship is a good match for the child as well as the parents. If you choose not to move forward with the adoption, the agency will remove the child from the home.

However, the process may also vary depending on what type of adoption you are considering. A lawyer can discuss the possibilities and what they entail, whether you are considering:

  • Foreign adoption
  • Related vs. unrelated adoption
  • Agency vs. non-agency adoption
  • Foster child adoption
  • Adult adoption

Fostering a Child

If you are fostering a child, you have agreed to care for a child who is not your biological child. A similar process is involved in determining whether a family is qualified to foster a child. They must show that they will provide a safe and caring environment for their new family member – even though the status may only be temporary. The placement of foster children is normally arranged through the government or a social service agency.

Foster parents usually receive a monthly payment for providing board, clothing and personal allowance. As members of the child welfare team, they do have rights, but those rights and responsibilities may differ from those of permanent adoptive parents. Speak with your lawyer to determine what the differences are to determine which path is more appropriate for your family.

Requirements for Adopting a Foster Child in Illinois

An experienced family law attorney is often necessary to guide families through the complex process of adopting through the foster system. In these cases, the adoption is usually finalized in court, and you will be required to cooperate with a team of professionals involved in the placement of the child. They may include caseworkers, legal professionals, and the birth family, as courts sometimes try to preserve family ties between foster children and their relatives.

To determine if you are a match for a particular child, certain conditions will be considered per the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/15.1). Factors considered by the judge may include:

  • How the child interacts with the adoptive parents;
  • How they appear to adjust to their current home;
  • The child’s adjustments to school, and community;
  • The wishes of the child’s biological parents; and
  • Family ties between the child and the people hoping to adopt them.

Consult Qualified Family Lawyer About Adoption Options for You

Whether through the foster system or not, adoption is an option for single and divorced people, as well as same-sex, married or unmarried couples. The mandated steps and requirements for becoming a child’s legal guardian are there to protect your needs as well as those of the child. Getting licensed to foster and adopt in Illinois can take up to six months or longer.

Mandated requirements generally include:

  • Criminal background check;
  • Stable income;
  • Medical exam;
  • Home study and safety check; and
  • Some classroom training.

If you are considering adoption or fostering a child, contact the Law Office of David A. King, P.C. to get answers to all of your questions. A highly qualified family law attorney will be able to walk you through the legal process and help you determine the best path forward.


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