If you’re trying to decide which route to take on your parenting journey, you might be asking: what’s the difference between fostering and adopting? While both processes are similar in some ways, there are also some key differences in how they work. Whichever you decide upon, it helps to be informed so that you can feel prepared and confident in your decision. But what is the difference between foster carers and adoptive parents - and which one is right for you?

What Are The Key Differences?

While attending training classes or trying to learn more about fostering and adoption it’s not uncommon for people to confuse the two terms - so here is a breakdown of the key differences between them.


  • The main aim of fostering is to reunite the child (or young person) with their biological family.
  • The role of a Foster Carer is to care for the child until they can return home to their family or until longer term plans can be made.
  • Legal responsibility for the child remains with the Local Authority.
  • Foster Carers receive financial support including a fee. There is also a fostering allowance to cover the day-to-day expense of looking after the child.


  • The purpose of adoption is to create a family through permanent placement of the child.
  • Adoption is a process creating legal relationships between the child and adoptive parents giving them the same status as a birth family.
  • In Adoption all parental rights and responsibilities are conferred onto the adoptive parents.

Considering Your Own Aims

When asking: “what’s the difference between fostering and adopting?” there might be an assumption that one is better than the other. This is far from the case: both can be meaningful and life-changing (both for the children as well as those caring for them) - however it’s important to note the fundamental differences between the two in addition to your own goals.

Fostering could be right for you if:

  • You are open to providing a temporary, loving home to a child in need.
  • You are aware of your important role in working as part of a wider team working together to support the child.
  • You are aware of (and prepared for) the processes and challenges involved.

Adoption could be right for you if:

  • You are ready to adopt a child into your family on a permanent basis.
  • You are aware of (and prepared for) the processes and challenges involved.

More information on eligibility and the processes involved in foster care can be found on our “Becoming a Foster Carer” page.