Adoption and guardianship offer children and parents two similar paths to permanency. Both options provide permanent caregivers with many of the same legal rights as birth parents. However, adoption is a lifetime relationship that gives the child all of the legal benefits of a child born into the family. While guardianship builds family relationships that can last a lifetime, the legal relationship established by a juvenile court guardianship ends when the child turns 18 and is considered an adult. This is one reason why adoption is considered to be a more permanent lifetime commitment than guardianship.

Another important difference between these two permanency options concerns the birth parents' rights. For a child to be adopted, the rights of the birth parents must be legally terminated, voluntarily surrendered or the birth parents must have signed a consent to the adoption. With guardianship, the birth parents' rights do not have to be legally terminated.

With both adoption and guardianship, the permanent caregivers should realize that the child's birth parents and siblings may continue to be an important part of the child's life. Depending on the best interests of the child, birth family connections can be maintained with ongoing contacts after an adoption or guardianship.

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