Journal Issue: Adoption Volume 3 Number 1 Spring 1993
Adoption and Foster Care
The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-272) has, as its central purpose, the prevention of unplanned "drift" of children from one foster home to the next. The law's goal is to ensure that every child has a permanent home by reuniting the birthfamily or, where this is not possible, by placing the child in an adoptive home. In a review of different options for permanency for older children, Barth and Berry concluded that adoption offers far more stability and benefits than long-term foster care placement.5 Indeed, stability may be the greatest advantage of adoption. For example, when a foster family moves out of state, the child most likely stays behind. In adoption, the child becomes a permanent member of the family and moves with it.
The advantage of special needs adoption relative to long-term foster care becomes more apparent when a lifetime perspective is applied. Although some foster families maintain contact after the child reaches maturity, adoption offers the stronger probability for lifetime relationships with parents, siblings, and extended family. Taking into account such factors as the financial value of parent-child relationship (determined by legal awards in wrongful death cases), parental contributions to the child's development and education, and the child's future earnings, the lifetime financial value of adoption to an 8-year-old child who might otherwise reside in foster care exceeds $500,000. This amount is six times greater than the cost of long-term foster care.5
Follow-up studies with adults also suggest advantages for adoption relative to foster care. Triseliotis and Russell compared perceptions of adults who were adopted at an older age (mean age = 3.5 years) with those of adults who were raised in foster care. The adoptees indicated higher levels of satisfaction with how they were raised and with their lives.6