Adoption and fostering both provide a safe and secure home for children, but they differ in terms of the carer’s rights and responsibilities.

When a child is adopted, their adoptive parents become their legal parents, and all legal ties with the birth family are severed. The child's birth parents no longer have any parental rights and responsibilities, and all important decisions are taken by the adoptive parents. When a child is in foster care, rights and responsibilities for the child are shared between the birth parents and the local authority. Foster carers provide day-to-day care for the child and work in partnership with social workers and birth parents on any important decisions about the child.

Fostering a child is usually a temporary arrangement. Depending on the needs of the child, it can involve short or long-term fostering, a short break or emergency care, or fostering to adopt – where a child is fostered with the aim of adoption. For further information on fostering take a look at the Fostering Network website.

A child can also be cared for by a member of their extended family or family friend, who are given parental responsibilities under special guardianship arrangements. This is an arrangement that has to be agreed by a court.