It’s not uncommon for individuals to draw parallels between adoptions and legal guardianships.
What’s more, adoption is frequently likened to guardianship because the two are strikingly similar.
In short, both an adoptive parent and legal guardian assume the role of an active parent over a
child that is not biologically theirs. Their duties are to lawfully provide, adequately tend to, and
sufficiently care for a parentless child that would otherwise fall into the hands of the system. While
both roles are equally as admirable, there’s one notable stipulation that differentiates the two.
Simply put, adoptive parents presume lifelong responsibility while legal guardians can have their
parental rights revoked. In other words, adoption is a permanent means of caring for a child while
guardianship is temporary.
A legal guardian is warranted when a parent cannot effectively care for their child. In these
situations, the legal guardian will serve as the primary caretaker, nurturing the child much like a
biological parent would. Providing education, shelter, financial support, and overall care are
responsibilities that fall under the legal guardian’s umbrella. The legal guardian is either cherry-
picked by the parents, or appointed by the court. Regardless of how the guardian has been
selected, it is their dutiful liability to keep the child’s best interest in mind. It’s important to note
that while a legal guardian is assuming the role of a parent, legal guardianships don’t require
biological parents to relinquish their legal parental rights. With that said, the biological parent can
cease the agreement at any point. Under extreme situations, a court can lift this provision and
emancipate the child if they see fit. However, legal guardianships are generally terminated when a
parent can demonstrate appropriate care-taking skills.
On the other end of the spectrum lies adoption. While legal guardianships contain hairy gray areas,
adoptions are black and white. When a non-biological parent adopts a child, they assume all legal
responsibility. The biological parent must renounce their rights and hand them over to the adoptive
parent. As a result, the child will no longer be legally linked to their biological parent. When an
adoption has been established, the agreement is irreversible. While it’s generally assumed
biological parents don’t contact their child after an adoption has been settled, open and semi-open
adoptions are permissible, however they must first be agreed upon.