Foster Care, Guardianship and Adoption

Adoption is comparable to the movie Annie”, when Mr. Warbucks goes to the home for girls, finds Annie and takes her home with him to join his family. Foster care could be compared to the ABC Family show, The Fosters, in which a bunch of kids, who are not related to each other, all temporarily live with parents who are not related to them either. The two are similar, but foster care is less permanent than adoption. A third similar situation, guardianship, is a legal way to care for a child before the age of 18.

 The three terms are very similar to one another, but actually have very different meanings. The state of Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) has broken it down to simplify it for anyone to understand the differences between the three.


When someone adopts a child, that person becomes the child’s legal parents. That child is the same as a biological child in the eyes of the law. Once the adoption is complete, the DCFS is no longer involved in the child’s care because the adoptive parents take on all of the responsibilities of the child, including medical and legal decisions. In order for an adoption to take place, the parental rights of the biological parents must have been terminated by a court or voluntarily by the parents.


Guardianship, like adoption, is permanent, but the biological parents do not have to give up their parental rights. This is the best option after adoption is ruled out, but the child also cannot return to the home of the biological parents. Typically, this is used when a relative takes over as a caregiver to a child for six months or longer. Guardianship is important for caregivers, so that they can be appointed as legal guardians for any necessary educational or medical reasons that may need an adult to consent. The DCFS is not involved once a guardianship has been established, although guardians may receive financial assistance if they have taken in children who were previously in the care of DCFS.

Foster Care:

Foster care is the most unique of the three. Foster families must be licensed to take in children and provide them with a temporary home until a permanent one is found. These children have homes that are unsafe, and are therefore in the care and guardianship of the state. Sometimes, children are put into foster care temporarily while their parents undergo necessary counseling until they are once again seen as fit to care for their own children. Others are adopted out of foster care, but either way, the DCFS is continuously involved in the children’s lives throughout foster care.

If you have questions about adoption, guardianship or foster care, contact a family law attorney. Attorneys at the Law Office of Matthew M Williams in Aurora, Ill. can help you add a child to your life today.

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