Foster and Adoptive Families

Right now, there are about 15,000 children in Pennsylvania’s temporary foster care right now (PA Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network). This makes foster and adoptive families an important family dynamic because of the need for families like this to exist.

About Foster and Adoptive Families

There is a difference between the structure of these two families. Foster families help children temporarily when they have a home that is not adequate for a child. There are several aspects of the family that are assessed to determine suitability. Adoptive families permanently take in a child who is not their own and raises them as parents raise a biological child. These parents go through a legal process to officially adopt.

Challenges of Foster and Adoptive Children and Families

With children, ambiguous loss often arises as a struggle faced during the transition. Some children in foster care have parents/family that are physically no longer in the child’s life, but psychologically, the child still feels their presence. This creates feelings of ambiguous loss in the child, which can come along with grief and resentment towards the foster family. Parents are encouraged to acknowledge this loss with the child, as well as openly discuss the child’s feelings of grief and increase their human connection with support networks (Mitchell 2016).

Foster parents may also struggle with letting their foster child go, if the situation does not lead to adoption (PA Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network). These children are placed in foster homes as a temporary solution to the problem, but the problem may become resolved, and children are often returning to their homes or a better situation that was worked out. Foster parents play a critical role in providing safety and security for these children in a time when their life becomes difficult, which can create strong bonds, but when the time comes, these parents have to be able to let go quickly.

Kinship Caregivers

Another common structure of foster and adoptive children is kinship care. This term is used when children are being taken care of by grandparents or other extended family members. These caregivers can face struggles in this process, too. Feelings of shame and failure as a parent of their adult child, guilt, anger, and resentment are just a few of the challenging emotions kinship caregivers might experience in their position. 

The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers multiple articles with helpful tips and planning for kinship caregivers to have a successful foster period or adoption process.

Learn More

Both fostering and adopting children can be a challenging process for both the caregiver and the child. It always helps to be well informed about struggles that the child may have difficulty expressing to their caregiver. Many organizations have put out useful information and resources for caregivers in these positions. Here are a few:

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

Request free printed materials from our Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series.


Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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