Any way you look at it, the number of children in Los Angeles County without a stable home to call their own is staggering. The foster care program serves nearly 30,000 youth in Los Angeles County alone, and many of those youth face incredible challenges in getting the education and care they need to avoid the threats of persistent poverty, teenage pregnancy, and abuse. There are several ways that caring adults can do their part to help a child in need of loving care, and these include adoption, legal guardianship, or foster parenting. Below, we compare legal guardianship and foster parenting.

A Foster Parent’s Responsibilities

To become a foster parent, you must be approved by a California court to provide ongoing care for a child, and your home must be licensed or certified by the state as an appropriate foster home. A social worker will place a foster child with a foster family that the worker believes will meet the best interests of the child, but the agency handling the child’s matter will retain legal custody of the child, while the foster parent will provide day-to-day physical care.

During the time that a foster parent provides care for the child, the parent will be responsible for providing food, shelter, and care for the child, but will receive funding through the State agency to help pay these costs. The parent also has the right to make ordinary decisions regarding the child’s welfare, but does not have the full custodial rights to make decisions on certain issues, such as what medical care the child should receive or providing consent for major life decisions such as entering into marriage. In such cases, the foster agency would guide such decisions, and in all cases the agency will remain involved throughout the foster care relationship.

A Guardian’s Role

A guardian, on the other hand, does not become the legal parent of the child in perpetuity as would occur in an adoption, but does take on more responsibility for a child than occurs in a foster parent relationship. A guardian is appointed by a court directly to take care of a child on a long-term basis, but the biological parent may come back into the picture at a later time to resume the parent-child relationship (which should not occur in an adoption scenario).

In addition to providing food, shelter, and care for a child, a guardian will also exercise the same types of rights over a child’s life as would a legal parent. The guardian will decide what types of medical care the child should receive as well as make decisions regarding the child’s educational needs. A guardian can also move with a child to a different location (provided notice is given), and can move out of state with permission of the court. A guardian can also provide consent for the child to obtain a driver’s license, join the armed forces, or get married, among other major life decisions.

Depending upon the situation, funding is available for adults who decide to become a guardian of a child – and it is possible for a foster parent to become the guardian of a child – but it is highly advised to work with an adoption attorney to secure the necessary funding before any steps are taken to become a child’s legal guardian.

Experienced Attorneys for Your California Stepparent Adoption

Adoption Law Group is a law firm in Southern California dedicated exclusively to adoption. Our areas of practice include stepparent adoptions, fost-adopt finalizations, agency-assisted adoption finalizations, adult adoptions, guardianships and international readoptions. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.