Foster care takes root in India. How does it differ from adoption?

Foster care in the United States is not a new concept for many families. Internationally, however, the push for non-institutionalized programs to place children in family settings is still taking shape. Here is a primer on the basic differences between adoption and foster care from an international perspective.

Ian Anand Forber-Pratt/Foster Care India
In this updated photo taken by Foster Care India, a young man takes a break to supervise the hand processing of tamarind in a poor area near the railway station in Udaipur, India.

Family is an important component in anyone’s life. But those deprived of connections to their biological family, especially children, need access to programs that supplement a caring, safe environment for personal growth.

Currently, across the globe, there is a push for non-institutional alternative care solutions for children. International authorities are beginning to demand every child's right to grow up in a family-based setting.

Many of us, however, find that the options for the care of children are tough to differentiate. It is necessary to understand the difference between adoption and foster care so that the picture becomes clearer when it comes to global action.  

Adoption is a legally permanent living situation where the biological parents’ rights are surrendered and the child becomes a legal member of the adoptive family. Foster care is a temporary living situation in which the foster family has guardianship only. The child’s biological parents still remain his or her legal parents, unless their parental rights were terminated by law. So, we can say adoption is legally permanent and foster care is temporary.

In the case of adoption, the biological parents do not have a right to care for or control the assets of their child after adoption. 

Adoption benefits include a sense of permanence for the adopted child, as children know they are going to be a part of an adoptive family their whole lives. This permanence fosters a feeling of inclusivity from the family and sense of belonging for the adopted child.

In cases of foster care, the foster parents are responsible for providing the child with all the facilities of family life – to nurture children in order to benefit their personal growth and identity – without maintaining control of a child's assets or rights. 

The concept of foster care internationally is relatively new. For instance, in India, the foster care system is in its infancy. The Central Adoption Resource Authority in India has recently made conscious effort to put priority on domestic, safe adoptions and the entire country is moving toward a focus on non-institutional care options. Indian states are given the authority to expand their child protection laws, and the implementation of non-institutional care varies by state.

In India, it has been found that one of the reasons why families may prefer foster care instead of adoption is that they are not under an obligation to make the foster child a legal heir to the parents’ property.

This is related to one negative point which subsists in both adoption and foster care worldwide. Children under adoptive or foster care may not receive equal treatment given to the biological children of the family. To overcome this, there are provisions under foster care under India’s Juvenile Justice Act (2000, 2006) and Integrated Child Protection Scheme (2009) that keep regular checks on the parents so that no child’s rights are affected in any way.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child also demands children be supervised in any care environment. However, in case of adoption, there is often little follow-up.

If we look at the line of difference between adoption and foster care, both are means through which every child can find care in a family setting, but the international scope of foster care is still taking shape, providing a new option for childcare in India and worldwide.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Kripa Devpura is a member of the Foster Care India organization, which can be found at fostercareindia.org.

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