While anyone can choose to care for a child in need for short or long-term periods, such as a foster care situation, adoption is a different situation that requires a much different commitment. Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the birth parents. In this process, the parental rights of the birth parents are permanently terminated. The adoptive parents then assume full legal responsibility for the child. The child, in turn, gains the same legal rights as that of a child born to the adoptive parents.
Adoption means that the connection between the child and the caregiver is legal and binding on both parties, not just convenient. It makes it a crime for the caregiver to abandon the child. It also makes it legal for the adoptive parents to make decisions that seriously influence the child's destiny: what type of religious education will occur; what schools the child will attend; methods of discipline that will be used, etc. A casual caregiver would not be subject to the same penalties under the law.
Adoption involves a great deal of paperwork, as well as the assistance of lawyers, social workers, and judges to finalize the process. It is a permanent arrangement, just like a natural parent-child relationship. However, for most families, adoption is ultimately an act of love and the desire to enrich their family and the life of the child who becomes a part of that family.