How foster care is different from adoption

Foster care offers non-permanent care options for children who are unable to live with their birth families. Adoption is a permanent arrangement.


In foster care, children are removed from their birth families and are placed into care. Children in foster care can be any age from birth to 18 years.

Children and young people in foster care may have contact with their birth family while they are living with a foster carer. This is arranged by a case worker provided by the Department for Child Protection.

Every attempt is made to strengthen families so that children can return home safely - and the birth family is supported through a planned process during this time.


In adoption, birth parents legally relinquish their parental rights to, and ties with, their children.

The adoptive family takes on all these rights and responsibilities for the child's care and parenting. The child is legally recognised as if he or she were born into the adoptive family.

The adopted child has the same legal rights as any biological child of the adopting family.

Adoption is a permanent legal arrangement.

Related information

On this site

Adoption in South Australia

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Page last updated 7 March 2019

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