Difference Between Foster Care and Adoption - Children's Bureau



Difference Between Foster Care and Adoption

Every year in the United States, thousands of children face the uncertainty of unstable living situations and are in need of secure, nurturing environments. The foster care system and adoption play pivotal roles in reshaping the lives of these children—it offers them the opportunity to thrive in loving and supportive families. The goal is to provide stable homes.

While both foster care and adoption involve the dedicated care of a child, the main difference is that foster care is considered temporary, while adoption integrates a child, permanently, into a family.

To better grasp the distinct aspects of fostering a child and adopting a child, view these latest statistics that shed light on the difference.

Family Foster Care

Becoming a foster parent is a profoundly altruistic act that significantly impacts the lives of children in need. While foster parents may not provide a permanent family for the children they care for, they serve as vital caregivers and mentors, nurturing the children and providing them with essential support. 

Here are some facts differentiating between bringing a child into your home for foster care and adoption:


Adoption represents a life-altering commitment for both children and adoptive parents, offering every child the prospect of growing up in a caring, nurturing, safe, and loving home. The following points delineate the distinctions between adoption and foster care:

  • In 2021, 53% of the children and youth who left foster care were reunited with their families or living with relatives, while 25% were adopted, according to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Adoptions can be open or closed, with birth parents maintaining varying degrees of communication with the adopted child.
  • In California alone, there are approximately 60,000 children in the foster care system, with more than 15,000 awaiting adoption.

To discover how you can transform a child’s life by becoming a foster parent or adopting a child, visit our informational page on Family Foster Care and Adoption.

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