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What Separates Foster Care from Adoption?

There are several similarities between adoption and foster care. In fact, having experience in one may help with getting approved for the other as you can demonstrate your skills caring for vulnerable children. Nevertheless, foster care and adoption are two different ideas with certain core similarities. Knowing precisely what separates the two ideas is important though, especially if you are considering your options. Let’s get to know the differences.

Time Commitment

The primary difference that separates foster care from adoption is that of time commitment. Adoption is a permanent commitment, whereas fostering is not. Adoption is the legal act of permanently welcoming a child into your home in the same way as your own son/daughter. Foster families can choose to provide a safe, healthy, and thriving home environment to children for a period that can be as short as just a few nights, or as long as several years.

It mostly depends on the kind of foster care that you wish to provide to the children under your wing. In the UK, there are eight different types of foster care options that willing and qualified foster families can choose to provide:

  1. Emergency – The foster family opens their home for a few days to children in urgent need of a safe shelter.
  2. Short Term – The children stay with the foster family for a few weeks/months and up to 2 years.
  3. Long Term – The child will stay with his/her foster parents for more than 2 years and often until the time he/she reaches adulthood.
  4. Kinship/Family and Friends – A recognized relative, or family friend assumes the child’s fostering responsibilities.
  5. Pre-Adoption Fostering – Serves as an assessment period for families looking to adopt a child.
  6. Respite – The foster family will take care of children for a short time to provide their long-term caregivers (biological/adopted/fostering) a respite from their duties.
  7. Specialist Therapeutic – The foster carer who has specialist therapeutic training takes in children with complex needs and/or behavioural disorders.
  8. Remand – Specially trained foster carers take in preteens and teens during the remanding process before they face their court charges.

Financial Responsibility

Perhaps the biggest difference between foster care and adoption is financial. When you adopt a child, you become legally and financially responsible for the child in the same way as you would be for your biological offspring. In sharp contrast, foster care families are paid by the local authority or specialist fostering agencies to take care of the child.

In fact, some foster care agencies even pay additional allowances for birthdays and other celebrations. If you are interested to know more about how to become a foster carer and what it entails, visit

Approval Process & Waiting Time

To permanently adopt a child, the family needs to go through the adoption process and there may also be a much longer waiting time involved with adoption, while the agency match them with a child. To become an officially registered foster carer, you will need to go through a full fostering assessment, which takes around 4-6 months, but the waiting time to be matched with a child is likely going to be shorter. Fostering agencies are always on the lookout for families who would be willing to provide a temporary home to the thousands of children who are in immediate need.

Children in foster care may return to their birth family if it’s safe for them to do so. If this isn’t possible, they may be adopted or move to a long-term foster home until they turn 18, or stay with the original family if approved for long-term fostering. If a child is up for adoption, it indicates they have no direct family left, or who are willing and fit to ever take care of them.