Updated: Nov 14
Adoption is a common family planning tool, and foster care is often overlooked in favor of adoption. However, foster care is a viable alternative for adoption for prospective parents who want to raise a child.
If you’re considering growing your family, I urge you to consider all your options before choosing adoption. Not only is adopting a baby expensive, but it can also be ethically questionable—that’s a story for another time, though.
For now, here are eight alternatives to adoptions that are often more ethical, affordable, and beneficial to your community.
1 - Foster a Child
The most obvious alternative to adoption is fostering a child. There are roughly 400,000 children in the foster care system at any given time, and these children have higher risks of trauma, abuse, neglect, systemic violence, and homelessness.
If you’re passionate about equity, foster care is one way that you can make a big difference when it comes to social justice. Children of color are disproportionally represented in the foster care system due to racial discrimination, poverty bias, and systemic oppression.
Typically, foster care is a short-term solution, which means that you also gain the opportunity to positively impact the lives of many children.
Creating a loving home for a foster child is an impactful alternative to adopting a baby—and one in four foster children are adopted by their foster families. You can be the forever home that these kids desperately need.
2 - Guardianship & Legal Custody
Where foster care is a short-term solution and adoption is a permanent long-term solution, legal custody through guardianship is a temporary but long-term solution to care for children in need. Guardianship often leads to adoption, but it is not always the case.
Guardianship is distinct in a number of ways:
· The biological parents retain their rights and may seek those rights later on
· Guardians are not financially responsible for their children, legally
· Guardians undergo regular check-ins by court officials
You can consider guardianship as a sort of shared parenting role for a child in need. In many cases, the children come from families that struggle to provide for them financially and emotionally due to hardship. As a guardian, you become a supportive adult in that child’s life to ensure their wellbeing.
3 - Mentorship
Many people are unaware that you can care for children in many ways that don’t involve being a parent.
Mentorship is a phenomenal option, especially for adults who want to make a positive impact in children’s lives but aren’t interested in being parents themselves. It’s also a great option for existing parents who want to connect with and support children in their community.
It takes a village to raise a child, and you can be a part of that village through mentorship. There is a great need for mentors for children in foster care, especially for youth who are close to aging out of the system. These kids are at an especially high risk of homelessness, and they often lack many of the essential resources they need for success.
4 - Respite Care
Parenthood is a lot of work, and every parent needs a break. For foster parents, respite care is an essential self-care resource that gives parents an opportunity to take care of themselves while having the peace of mind that their kids are being taken care of by another responsible adult.
Respite programs connect parents and caregivers, developing community and support systems that benefit adults and children. If you are interested in receiving or providing respite care for foster children, background checks are mandatory to ensure safety.
Parents of children with emotional, behavioral, or medical challenges often have a heightened need for respite care due to stress—and the need for specialized respite caregivers is high due to required special training.
As a respite caregiver, you can have an immense impact on the wellbeing of children and their parents.
5 - Kinship Care for Adopted or Foster Kids
Kinship care is a type of foster care that refers to a child being placed with a relative. Children who are placed in kinship care are less likely to re-enter foster care.
Some jurisdictions allow close family friends or “fictive kin” to qualify as kinship care. While anyone can become a respite caregiver, mentor, or foster parent, kinship care happens when a specific set of circumstances is met.
First, you need to be open to fostering and adoption, which would involve you becoming one of the primary parents of the child in need. Second, the child in need would need to be considered actual or fictive kin. Third, you, the family, and the courts would need to collaboratively decide that this choice is best for the children.
If you know a family who’s fighting to keep their children, you can offer kinship care, which would place a child or children with you but allow the children to remain close to family and in their community.
Kinship care is an ideal option for children whose parents are struggling to care for them due to mental or physical health issues.
6 - Foster a Family
You can also choose to foster a family. Known as whole family fostering, fostering a family refers to when a licensed foster care provider opens their home to an entire family.
The licensed provider provides financial, physical, and emotional support to the family through behavior modeling and educating adults and children.
Program requirements and details vary from state to state. Some programs are specifically for teens, and single parents especially can benefit from this type of foster care.
7 - Foster Care Advocacy & Adoption Education
Finally, you don’t need to engage directly with children to advocate for foster kids.
Spreading awareness about the reality of foster care and what we can do to reform the system is a step in the right direction.
While it may not feel like you’re having a direct impact on children in need, spreading awareness and devoting your time and energy to learning more does have a very real impact.
Final Thoughts: You Can Help Children in Need
You have the power to help children in need, and it starts here. Even if you cannot physically care for children, it’s clear that you care about kids on a personal or emotional level—that’s why you read this whole article.
Take a moment to share what you’ve learned or consider learning more. If we want to see changes happen, we need to create that change.
If you want to contribute to positive systemic changes, you can also learn more about trauma-informed practices in my Trauma-Informed Masterclass, a foundational and complete training program. Use discount code BLOG100 to receive $100 off.