The Difference Between Adoption and Foster Care

Happy young woman signing contract about adoption while talking to social worker with her family in background

Adoption and foster care are fundamentally different, despite their similarities. Adoption transfers all parental rights and advantages to a new parent. A World For Children can help explain some of these fundamentals.

The birth parents can pick a family they think would best meet their child’s requirements. Adopting a child makes the adopters his/her permanent parents. Rarely, the child is permitted to have some contact with its birth parents. Most children don’t discover they’re adopted until they’re adults. 

Foster care, on the other hand, is a stricter system in which “foster parents” might be wards or group homes. In rare situations, a child may be placed with a state-certified caretaker, comparable to adoption. The main distinction is that foster parents are paid weekly, whereas adoptive parents only receive support from the social services department that put the child in their care, which is rarely equivalent to foster parent income. 

Fostering is a full-time profession, while adoption is a one-time procedure that lasts the child’s lifetime and includes a far deeper emotional connection between the adoptee and the new parents than between foster parents and the child. 


One person or couple adopts another person, usually a chil, and takes over all the legal rights and privileges of being a parent from the birth parents. 

Before adopting, biological parents usually do a lot of research to select a family they think would be a good fit for their child and nurture him properly. 

In 2017, most adopted children were under 2. Since the youngster would barely remember its previous parents, this is the ideal age for adoption. 

Adopted children seldom contact their birth parents. Its actual family is the adoptive family. The family may tell the child it was adopted at a given age, depending on their attitude. 

There is terminology for adoptions with these various relationships between the adopted individual and his/her original parents: open and closed adoptions, where open adoption preserves the link and closed, or confidential, adoption breaks it. Also things to consider:

  • transferring all legal rights from biological to adoptive parents. 
  • Anyone can be adopted, although most are under 2. 
  • Biological parents can choose adoptive parents. 
  • The biological parents seldom see their child. 


Foster parents receive weekly pay for caring for a child, making foster care a profession. This has led many to use children and foster parents to make quick money. In recent years, such incidents have substantially diminished. 

Foster care systems vary. Example: wards, group homes, or orphanages. A single foster parent must be state-certified. When fostering is most like adopting. 

Another crucial issue is that adoptees should exchange letters, photos, and other material with their birth parents. The child usually exits foster care around 18. 

Adoption/Fostering Summary 

  • Adoption gives adopting parents full legal rights, obligations, and rewards of parenthood. 
  • Fostering a child till 18 is a job for a foster parent or organization. 
  • Foster parents receive weekly income, but adopting parents only receive social services help. 
  • Foster children are encouraged to maintain their biological family relationships, but adopted children rarely do.