The difference between foster care and adoption

There is often confusion about foster care and adoption. Both involve the care of a child who is not (usually) related to you (although in some cases relative and kinship care occurs both in adoption and foster care). Both have their ups and downs, hardships and rewards. But what is the difference?

Foster Care

When a child is unable to live with their biological family and the State Department believes that for their care and protection they need to be removed from their birth family and no alternative care option can be located then they can be placed in the Out of Home Care system. Children can either be moved to a residential facility, group home or the home of a foster carer. The local Department of Child Protection services is usually responsible for the initial placement of a child and works with community based agencies to find an appropriate placement. When children are removed from their birth families a range of court and legal actions have to take place prior to the placement of the child.

The length of time a child is placed with a foster carer varies significantly. The timeframe can range from weeks to years and can also include permanent long term placements. The aim of foster care is to re-unite the child with their birth family when it is safe and appropriate to do so. If this is not possible, the child may be placed with a foster care family permanently. At Key Assets foster carers are provided with 24/7 support, a dedicated social worker, training and an allowance to care for the child.

Whilst it may be hard to say goodbye to the child when they leave, most carers say that they gain as much personally as they have shared with the young people.


Adopting a child means the adoptive parent will take on all legal responsibility for a child who is usually not biologically related to the adoptive parent.  All care for that child becomes the adoptive parent’s responsibility rather than the biological parents.

Adopting a child is a permanent arrangement and the guardianship rights transfer to the adoptive parents.

Some people who have consider adoption or identified that adoption is not an option for them find that fostering can be a rewarding experience. Becoming a foster carer allows you to connect not only with foster children, but with other foster carers within your community. To understand more about what it takes to become a foster carer, visit or contact Key Assets on 1800 WE CARE.