Fostering and adoption: Which one is right for me?

Friday 26 March 2021
Swing crop

You've decided that you’re ready to welcome a child into your life. But with thousands of fostering and adoption sites out there, it can be overwhelming knowing which is the right option for you.

In this blog, we compare fostering and adoption: In what ways are they the same? How are they different? To help you on your way to finding what's right for you, right now, read on.

How are fostering and adoption similar?

You’ll give them your love

As a foster carer or an adopter, you’ll be providing a loving, safe and happy family home to a child. You will love and nurture them and have a huge impact on their life.

Galina is a foster carer for Action for Children. She’s also adopted and has four birth children. Talking about her experience Galina says, “I’ve had the same feeling for every child I've ever looked after. Whether that’s my birth children, adopted or foster children. My heart doesn’t separate children.”

“I’ve had the same feeling for every child I've ever looked after.”

Portrait of Galina, a foster carer with Action for Children

You’ll go through a similar process whether fostering or adopting

To care for a child, whether by fostering or adopting, there will be a process to follow. Any agency you approach will want to get to know you. At first on the phone and later by visiting you in your home.

It takes around six months to become an adopter or a foster carer.

To give a child the best chance, you'll go through several checks, including an assessment.

These include:

  • Employment, personal and family references
  • A health assessment
  • DBS (criminal records check)
  • Regular meetings with a social worker (the assessment)
  • Training

Sharon, a social worker for Action for Children explains why the assessments for adoption is similar to fostering:

“It’s important to understand that children waiting for adoption have experienced trauma and neglect. Even babies can have experiences of trauma before they’re born.”

The training and assessment help you understand how trauma and neglect impact on a child’s development. By the end of the process, you'll be ready to welcome a child into your home. 

“Matching” a child with the right family

Matching is the term we use to describe how we find the right family for a child. Every child is different, they need the right environment to thrive.

At Action for Children, we’re passionate about getting the matching right. For our foster carers, adopters, children and young people, it makes all the difference.

There is support for you

Whether you adopt or foster, support is available. Sharon talks through what this support looks like:

“Foster carers have support from their social worker, including support groups and training. Adoptive parents can access support from the placing Local Authorities in the first three years after adoption. There is also the adoption support fund for some families.”

Action for Children offer extra support to adopters too, including regular support groups and training.

Father and child cuddle.png

How are fostering and adoption different?

Parental rights

With adoption, it’s straightforward. Once an adoption order is in place, you’ll have the same legal rights as a parent.

This means that you'll make all the decisions about things like schooling, health and where you live.

When you foster, it’s a little different. Sharon explains:

“As a foster carer, you are in the role of a parent, but it's the Local Authority who has the overall responsibility for the child’s welfare.”


Children in foster care vary in age, from a toddler to a teenager. With Action for Children, most foster children are over the age of six.

Children waiting for adoption are usually eight or under. When a child reaches the age of four, it becomes harder to find adopters. Action for Children welcomes adopters who would like to adopt an older child. 

Think about your motivation for wanting to care for a child. For both fostering and adoption, you’ll want children to be part of your family.


Length of commitment

Reflecting on her time assessing both foster carers and adopters, Sharon says, “Think about your motivation for wanting to care for a child. For both fostering and adoption, you’ll want children to be part of your family.

"Fostering is the same, but you’ll never have full responsibility for that child. With adoption, it’s permanent, the commitment goes beyond their independence. It's for the rest of their lives, and yours.”

We're here to help

Whatever you decide, Action for Children is here to help you on your journey.

We welcomes people from different backgrounds and circumstances – regardless of age, gender identity, ethnicity, or sexuality. If you’re ready to change a child's life forever, talk to us.

Interested in fostering?

Request an information pack

Interested in adoption?

Request an information pack