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What is the difference between Adoption and Fostering?

"Fostering" and "Adoption" are terms that are frequently used together, but they refer to two very different ways of looking after a child...

woman and boy


Adoption is a legal and permanent way of providing a new family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents.

Once an adoption order has been granted it can't be reversed except in extremely rare circumstances.  All parental responsibility is transferred to the adopters and the adopted child loses all legal ties with their birth parents and becomes a full member of the new family, usually taking the family's name.  The adopting family have the same rights towards the adopted child as if the child had been born to them.  In most cases, adopted children are encouraged to maintain links with their birth parents, most commonly through letters and photographs.

For more information see www.westernbayadoption.orgOpens new window


Fostering is a temporary and finite arrangement, where a child is cared for by another family. 

There are a number of different types of fostering arrangements, long and short term, to meet the different needs of children in the care system.  Long-term fostering arrangements normally come to an end when the child reaches the age of 18. Foster carers make decisions about the day-to-day care of the child but do not have parental responsibility for the child which remains with the child's birth parents and/or the local authority caring for the child.  In most cases the child will have regular contact with their parents.

For more information see

Some children who are looked after by the local authority are formally fostered by relatives or friends who have the same responsibilities as other foster carers.  This is known as Family and Friends Foster Care.


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