It's not unusual for foster parents to become interested in adopting a child who has been placed with them after they have come to know and bond with the child (this is different than fost/adopt programs). Many families become foster parents with the sole intent of providing a safe and loving interim environment for one or more children who will either return to their biological families or be placed elsewhere for adoption... but no one can predict how the heart will react, and the foster family may, indeed, choose to pursue adoption if that is possible legally.
The basic difference, of course, is permanence. Your child will now have your lifetime commitment as a parent. Many foster families maintain lifetime relationships with children who have been in their care, but this is not permanently binding. Adoption is permanent. You and your child will now share family outcomes, whatever they may be.
Another major difference is in parenting responsibility for your child. Once the post-placement visits cease, you will not share parenting authority with an agency. Decisions about schools, medical care, and your child's many other daily activities will be yours alone.
You will also bear financial responsibility for your child. Your family insurance can be expanded to include your child, and if the adoption falls within the scope of "special needs," you will be responsible for applying for subsidies available in your state. Adoption tax credits may also be available.
The legal responsibility of permanence means that your child will inherit from you on the same basis as any biological children you may have, and you will be liable for her/his actions in any legal dispute until majority. In accordance with many state laws, your child will now carry your surname and will assume all the rights and responsibilities of every other family member.
Including The Past
Your child's foster family experience, both with you and others, as well as birth family heritage, will now become part of your entire family history. Some parents create or add to lifebooks, and products like the Forever Yours foster-to-adoption information kit might be helpful. This particular kit includes information for Social Workers, parents, and your child. Do choose something to encourage your child's active participation in the positive move to permanency.
Many states are moving toward a single homestudy process for both prospective foster and adoptive parents, but these are not in place everywhere, and you may be required to have another, more detailed study performed
Checking Your Resources
Making the move to permanence brings additional responsibilities along with the wonderful benefits of a new family member. In order to provide the best possible transition to a permanent family environment for your child, you may want to make sure the following resources are available:
Foster parents who want to be considered when a child in their care becomes available for adoption should take the same precautions as prospective adoptive parents:
How Prepared Are You?
If you are seriously considering adopting your foster child, a self-assessment worksheet has been developed by professionals as a tool to help you understand your strengths and needs.
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.