Menu Close

What Is The Difference Between Foster Care and Guardianship


Foster care and guardianship are two legal arrangements that allow someone other than a child’s parents to care for and make decisions on behalf of the child. They are often the result of a parent’s death, divorce, or involuntary surrender of parental rights.

Understanding the differences between foster care and guardianship can help families make informed decisions about their child’s future:

  • Foster care is a temporary arrangement in which a child is placed in the home of a state-certified foster parent.
  • Guardianship is a more permanent arrangement in which a person is appointed by a court to make decisions on behalf of a child.

Definition of Foster Care

Foster Care is a system designed to provide temporary living arrangements and care for children who have been removed from their parents due to abuse, neglect, or other family circumstances. The ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite the child/children with their parent(s) or kin while keeping the child/children safe. Foster Care also provides necessary resources that may not be available in the home such as mental health services and early childhood education.

Foster parents are licensed through Child Protective Services (CPS) and are expected to attend orientations, pre-service trainings, become CPR certified, and pass background checks along with an evaluation of their home environment. They provide a structured home life for the child/children by providing supervision and guidance as well as providing basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, medical care and transportation. Foster parents receive financial remuneration from CPS to offset costs incurred while caring for the child/children placed in their household.

In order for a foster placement to be successful there must be collaboration between foster parent(s), Child Protective Services (CPS), caseworker and court assigned attorney advocating on behalf of the child/children’s best interests. When successful this arrangement will have yielded permanency which may come in the form of reunification with parent(s) or kinship placement if reunification is not possible which ultimately leads to guardianship or adoption of the child/children by another family member or unrelated individual if parental rights have been terminated by law upon proper proceedings in court.

Definition of Guardianship

Guardianship is a legal arrangement in which a court-appointed individual (“guardian”) is given the responsibility for managing and protecting the financial health, physical well-being and educational interests of another individual (the “ward”). Wards may include minors or adults who have been declared by a court to be incapacitated and thus not capable of making their own decisions regarding their care.

The guardian acts as a fiduciary, which means that the duty to act on behalf of the ward goes beyond simply ensuring his or her safety, but also involves using his or her best judgment in providing for the ward’s needs and protecting him or her from harm. In most cases, guardianship requires a court order, although certain guardians are appointed by an individual’s parents instead.

A guardian must meet certain requirements that vary depending on what state they reside in. Generally, these requirements include:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Being mentally competent
  • Acting within the best interests of the ward at all times

Becoming a guardian can be an arduous process which includes submitting an application along with any relevant documentation to the court. The process may also involve completing an investigation into your background and providing evidence of your qualifications to serve as a guardian.

Rights and Responsibilities

When it comes to differences between foster care and guardianship, there are a few key considerations that need to be made. Foster care and guardianship both involve the care of children in need, but they offer different rights and responsibilities.

In this section, we’ll be taking a look at the rights and responsibilities of both foster care and guardianship:

  • Foster care – rights and responsibilities.
  • Guardianship – rights and responsibilities.

Rights of Foster Parents

Foster parents provide a temporary home and family for children who have been removed from their own families due to neglect, abandonment, or abuse. Foster parents are required to develop relationships with the children as well as with their birth families, ultimately hoping for successful reunification. Foster parents must understand that reunification may happen at any given time and that this is the best result for the child whenever possible.

Foster parents have a few different rights under the law:

  • The right to receive adequate training and support to be successful in caring for foster children.
  • The right to be involved in team decision-making regarding the child’s plans.
  • The right to quality medical care, mental health services, education and other necessary services for foster children.
  • The right to protection from arbitrary or retaliatory actions taken against them by members of the child welfare system.
  • The right to access complaint procedures in order to advocate on behalf of the foster children they serve if they feel they are not being treated fairly or adequately supported.

Rights of Guardians

It is important to remember that while guardians have certain rights, they also have certain responsibilities. The rights of guardians vary from state to state and must be respected at all times. Generally speaking, guardianship rights include the right to make decisions regarding the child’s health care, education, and other aspects of life; the right to access financial and legal resources; the right to act as a representative for the child in legal proceedings; and the right to access records such as medical records or educational documents.

It is also important for guardians to understand that their responsibilities are just as significant as their rights. Guardians must actively seek out resources available for their children so that they can make sound decisions regarding their well-being. Guardians should:

  • Monitor how their children are doing academically and in other activities.
  • Keep track of past medical issues or concerns.
  • Maintain regular contact with teachers or healthcare providers.
  • Participate in decision making whenever appropriate.
  • Supervise recreational activities and religious programs when necessary.
  • Ensure boys and young men receive information related to sexual development.
  • Ensure girls receive comprehensive health care including mental health services throughout adolescence.
  • Follow through on treatment plans with health providers.
  • Provide a safe environment at all times.

Financial Support

When it comes to differences between foster care and guardianship when it comes to financial support, there are a few key points to consider. In foster care, the government provides financial support to both the foster parents and the foster children. Whereas in guardianship, the guardian is responsible for providing financial support to their ward.

We will discuss these points in more detail in the following section:

  • In foster care, the government provides financial support to both the foster parents and the foster children.
  • In guardianship, the guardian is responsible for providing financial support to their ward.

Foster Care Financial Support

Foster care financial support aims to provide financial assistance for families and individuals who are in need, such as those depending on foster care. Financial assistance may be offered in a variety of forms, from small grants and loans to larger subsidies that help pay for living expenses, rent or educational supplies. This can help foster families and others struggling with financial difficulties make ends meet.

Financial aid can come from both governmental and private sources, although the exact rules and guidelines vary depending on the source. Generally, eligibility requirements include income level, residence, family size, age and other necessary conditions. In some cases, financial aid may also be awarded directly to foster parents to cover certain expenses related to their role as a provider of care.

It is important to research different types of assistance being offered by both government and private organizations so you can find the right option for your family’s needs. It is also advisable to contact your local social services or foster care offices to get more information about available resources for receiving financial support.

Guardianship Financial Support

Financial support is one of the primary differences between foster care and guardianship. In most cases, when a child or young person is placed in foster care, the state becomes financially responsible for all or some of the child’s expenses. This is not the case with guardianship. With guardianship, the guardian assumes responsibility for providing financial support for the child or young person in their care.

Guardians may be able to claim certain benefits from the government, depending on where they are located, but this will not always be available. The guardian will usually need to provide for all of the expenses associated with raising a child, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Expenses related to schooling and extracurricular activities

In some cases, however, guardians may receive assistance from other family members such as grandparents.

Legal Rights

Understanding the difference between foster care and guardianship is essential in order to know the legal rights associated with each. Foster care is a temporary arrangement where a child is placed in a family while they wait to be reunited with their parents or adopted into a new family. Guardianship, on the other hand, is an arrangement where one person is given permanent legal and physical custody of a child.

In this section, let’s look at the legal rights associated with foster care and guardianship:

Foster Care Legal Rights

The legal rights of a foster child depend on their age and the state they live in. Generally, every foster care child has the right to:

  • Be safe and protected from abuse
  • Attend school on an equal basis with other children
  • Receive appropriate medical, mental health, and dental care
  • Participate in religious practices that are consistent with their wishes and those of their guardians or custodians
  • Have a voice in making decisions about their lives (including education, medical care, living arrangements) and be involved in court hearings that affect them; when appropriate, this may include being represented by an attorney or other representative in court proceedings
  • Receive written information about available services supporting their needs
  • Request a review of their case to determine whether it is moving toward meeting their permanency goals
  • Maintain relationships with siblings who are living separately due to foster care placements

Foster parents play an important role in helping foster children meet these expectations. Foster parents should ensure that all services necessary for the support of the placement are provided including legal services when indicated. Additionally, if there are plans for returning the child home or seeking adoption for the child, it is important to communicate clearly about those plans to help ensure that appropriate preparation takes place.

Guardianship Legal Rights

Becoming a guardian is a complex, legal process where an individual is appointed to take over care for another person. In some cases, this may involve taking full guardianship of a minor child, or it could involve caring for an elderly adult or an adult with disabilities who needs help making decisions about their care. Becoming a guardian requires going through the court system and typically requires providing the court with evidence that establishing guardianship is needed to ensure the safety and well-being of the individual.

Once guardianship has been established, the person assigned guardianship will have both legal and physical responsibility over the individual. Guardians are expected to oversee necessary medical treatment, provide clothing, housing and nutrition in a safe and healthy environment free from abuse or neglect. They must maintain regular contact with the court appointee to document progress regarding services needed by the individual as well as any changes in family or legal status. The guardian also must assign adequate resources to meet ongoing needs of the individual’s care.

It’s important to note that state laws vary when it comes to guardianship; however, most states follow certain guidelines related to

  • age requirements,
  • background screenings,
  • training instruction

before assigning someone as guardian of another person’s welfare.


Foster care and guardianship are both unique arrangements that involve adults and children. While they may appear similar, it is important to recognize that they are two distinct forms of care. Both arrangements can involve legal and financial implications, as well as emotional and practical challenges.

In this article, we will look at the key differences between foster care and guardianship and explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of each:

Duration of Care

The duration of the care that a child receives through foster care and guardianship may vary. Foster care is typically a short-term placement for children who have been removed from their home due to health and/or safety issues. During this time, the parent has the opportunity to regain custody of the child. When parents are unable or unwilling to take back custody, alternative options are explored, such as guardianship or adoption.

Guardianship is a more permanent option, usually given to a relative or family friend who agrees to take responsibility for the child’s needs while they are legally under their care and supervision. The guardian has authority over the child’s education, finances, health decisions, living arrangements and other aspects of their life until they reach adulthood or until the court changes their status. Although parental rights remain intact when a guardianship is granted, most decisions involving financial support are managed by the guardian themselves.

Legal Rights

The legal meaning of “rights” refers to a wide range of entitlements created by national, regional and international laws, agreements, regulations and ethical beliefs. Rights provide individuals with an opportunity to make choices without interference or harm from others. In certain circumstances, governments may be obligated to guarantee rights or protect them within its jurisdiction.

Rights generally fall into two categories: civil rights and human rights. Civil rights are those defined by a country’s respective constitution, while human rights are those held by all people regardless of their relationship with the state.

  • Civil Rights: Civil rights are legal guarantees protecting citizens against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and other factors. Examples include voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, as well as the right to own property.
  • Human Rights: Human rights are inherent freedoms all people should enjoy regardless of their nationality or place of residence. These inalienable freedoms include the right to life, liberty and security of the person; freedom from torture; fair trial; freedom from slavery; privacy protection; freedom of thought; freedom from discrimination; access to medical care; education; equal pay for equal work among many others.

Financial Support

When making decisions about financial support for a family member or friend, it is important to understand the different types of assistance available. There are three primary categories of financial aid: grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study programs.

  • Grants and scholarships are typically awarded based on financial need or academic merit, and may come from the federal government, state government, or private organizations. Grants usually do not have to be repaid. Scholarships often need to be paid back through service in certain organizations or careers after graduation.
  • Loans must be repaid with interest at some point over time. Funds can be borrowed from government loan programs such as the Federal Stafford Loan program or private banks; terms and conditions vary depending upon which loan source is chosen.
  • Work-study programs allow students to pay for school expenses by working part-time while attending classes full-time; income earned is taken into account when determining eligibility for other forms of aid such as grants and loans. Students may choose work-study opportunities both on campus and off campus depending upon their individual needs and goals for post-graduation success.

Decision Making Authority

When it comes to discussing any differences between guardianship and foster care, it’s important to start with decision-making authority. While a foster parent can provide nurture, love and support, the parents of a foster child ultimately retain decision-making authority. The court appoints a guardian to serve as an advocate in decisions that impact the life of the child they’re responsible for. It’s important to note that not all states recognize guardianship; in those instances, long-term foster care is likely the only option available.

In most cases, the role of a guardian includes:

  • Education planning
  • Medical consent authorization
  • Other decision-making rights typically accorded to biological or adoptive families.

The guardian should have good communication with both biological parents and other service providers in order to make well informed decisions on behalf of their ward. Decisions will be based on many factors such as health needs, age appropriate interests and long term goals of the child being represented.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between foster care and guardianship?

A: The main difference between foster care and guardianship is that foster care is temporary, while guardianship is permanent. Foster care is when a child is placed in the care of another family or individual, usually by a court order, while a guardian is someone who is legally responsible for the care and welfare of a minor. Foster care is typically used as a temporary solution for children who cannot live with their parents, while guardianship is a more permanent arrangement.