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Foster Care vs. Adoption in California

The 4 Main Differences Between Foster Care and Adoption

Deciding on the type of adoption you want to pursue can be a tough decision. But, it can lead to an amazing experience and a fulfilling future for your child.

In general, there are three common types of adoption:

Parents who wish to adopt from the U.S. choose between domestic infant adoption vs. foster to adopt in California. This guide will show hopeful adoptive families the difference between foster care and adoption through a private professional.

Even though American Adoptions of California completes only private domestic infant adoptions, we know that it isn’t the right path for everyone. So, we want to help you find the type of adoption that best suits your preferences and needs.

To get more free information now about which type of adoption may be best for you, contact us online any time.

Domestic Infant Adoption vs. Foster to Adopt in California [4 Key Differences]

Depending on your adoption goals, each path has its own pros and cons because of the significant differences between the two. But, one is not necessarily better than the other. It all depends on your unique situation.

Below are some factors that hopeful adoptive families should consider before deciding between adoption from foster care vs. adoption from a private professional:

1. Foster Care vs. Adoption in California: Wait Times

Private adoption through our agency: average of 12 months.

Foster care adoption: Immediately to five years (depending on the situation)

The wait time is one of the main differences between foster care and adoption through a private agency.

Hopeful adoptive families that want to adopt sooner often choose private adoption because of the better adoption opportunities and shorter average wait times.

But, this is not always the case. With any adoption, wait times will vary.

Although a disruption could happen at any moment during the private adoption process, it is incredibly rare. The prospective birth parent is in control of their adoption decision and can change their mind up until they sign the official paperwork.

As for foster care adoption, depending on your choice of fostering first or adopting straight from foster care will determine how quickly your foster care adoption process goes.

Families who adopt a child directly from foster care may have a faster process because the child’s biological parents have already had their rights terminated

On the other hand, some foster-to-adopt placements may take much longer as biological parents work toward reunification with their child.

This ultimately can keep children in the foster care system for months and sometimes years.

The foster care system’s main priority is reunification. Adopting the child you are fostering is not guaranteed.

But, some older children are immediately ready for adoption through the state. Check out California’s photolisting of children in foster care ready for adoption.

2. Foster Care vs. Adoption in California: Child’s Age

Private adoption: Infant

Foster Care adoption: Less than 1 year old to 21 years old

Another factor to consider when deciding between foster care vs. adoption through a private agency is the age of the child you want to adopt. 

American Adoptions of California is an affiliate of a national, private infant adoption agency. So, if you’re deciding between domestic infant adoption vs. foster to adopt in California, working with a professional like us is the best way to secure an infant placement.

But, the majority of foster care adoptions are for older children. And, there are many children in foster care who:

  • Have siblings

  • Have disabilities

  • Have experienced trauma

As of January 2022, there were over 11,000 children between the ages of 6 and 10, and almost 12,000 aged 11-15 in the California foster care system, which were the two largest age groups.

3. Foster Care vs. Adoption in California: Costs

Private adoption: $45,000-$65,000 on average

Foster care adoption: Cost of home study and possible agency fees

To understand which path is best for you, American Adoptions encourages hopeful adoptive parents to do their research before making any financial decision.

To complete a successful private adoption, there are many services and specialists ready to help. Every stage factors into the overall cost. Although it can seem like a lot at the start, there are many options for fundraising and financing that may offset the initial investment.

On the other hand, state adoptions usually cost less than private adoption. The home study fees and matching and advertising fees are the only costs to bear in mind. Also, foster parents are eligible to receive a monthly subsidy to help supplement the costs of caring for their child before adoption.

The decision between domestic infant adoption vs foster to adopt in California is yours to make. You should always do what will be best for your situation.

For more information about the adoption costs with American Adoptions, please contact us online any time.

4. Foster Care vs. Adoption in California: Biological Parent's Involvement

Private adoption: Birth mother’s discretion

Foster care adoption: Varies

All hopeful adoptive families with American Adoptions must agree to some level of open adoption.

This means that the adoptive family and birth parent have a relationship where they can:

  • Exchange pictures

  • Write each other emails or letters

  • Have video or phone calls

  • Conduct pre- and post-placement visits

  • And more

Most prospective birth mothers want an open adoption, so these requirements ensure that your profiles will be shown to as many prospective birth parents as possible. This should increase your chances of being chosen and decrease the wait time.

This is a major difference between foster care and adoption through a private agency. Families adopting through the foster system usually won’t have as much interaction with the birth parents, but this varies case by case.


American Adoptions encourages hopeful adoptive families deciding between these types of adoption to research what is best for them before making a final decision.

Although we exclusively coordinate private adoptions, we would be happy to answer questions about our adoption program and process. To get more free information now about private infant adoption, you can contact us online any time.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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