Guardianship or Adoption

There may be times when appointing a legal guardian is a better option for a foster child than adoption. In this article, we try to help you understand the differences.

How Does Guardianship Differ From Adoption?

The goal of guardianship or adoption is the same: to provide a stable, loving home environment for a child in need. The process and outcome, however, are different. Guardianship is temporary. Adoption is permanent.

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Legal guardianships are relationships where an adult who isn’t the child’s biological parent is appointed to provide care for the child. The biological parent who agrees to a guardianship hasn’t necessarily given up all parental rights. Guardianship can help provide a stable home for a child who has been placed in out-of-home care, creating a legal relationship between the child and caregiver. It provides a permanent family for the child without the necessity of terminating the biological parents’ rights. The child is able to maintain family connections while gaining the stability of a home with a caregiver who has demonstrated a commitment to caring for the child.

Adoption, on the other hand, is final. It legally and permanently terminates the biological parent’s rights and obligations to the child. Once an adoption has occurred, the child’s biological parents typically have no right to visitation with a child and no duty to provide the child with financial support. As you would expect, the adoption process is much more complicated than establishing a guardianship and it’s much harder to reverse.

Before seriously considering either option, it’s important for you to consult with an experienced adoption attorney in order to learn more about the state’s specific laws and to help you determine which would be the best option for your family. It’s also good to learn from the experience of others who have gone through the process.

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Home Parents Andrew and Merri Heberlein in The Wright Home have done two guardianships during their years of foster parenting. Merri shares a bit of their story, with the hopes that others might consider the option of becoming a guardian to a foster teen.

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We believe guardianship can be a great option for teenagers. Realistically, most teens have a strong sense of family and where they’ve come from by the time they’re in high school, regardless of their upbringing. Guardianship allows them to keep those roots and the story that is a part of who they are.

Adoption is a brand new beginning, and I strongly believe it’s the best option with young children. A child can build that identity and heritage with an adoptive family, which is healthy and reassuring. Some teenagers, however, can feel stifled by adoption; as if they’re losing a part of who they are. Guardianship allows them to feel freedom in knowing that they can reunite with their biological family someday, if healing occurs. They like the freedom to hold onto their heritage and continue being who they are, while being loved and cared for by guardians who truly want what is best for them. Guardianship offers a bridge to opportunities with a new family who will love and protect them, while maintaining ties to their biological family. Each family and child’s situation is unique, but for us, guardianship turned out to be a wise choice for all involved.

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