- Foster care is a temporary arrangement for a child who cannot live safely with her birth family.
- Adoption is a legally binding transfer of all parenting rights and responsibilities to an adoptive parent forever. An adoptive parent’s legal status is the same as if the child was born to him or her.
Children in foster care live with their relatives, foster parents or, if neither of these is available, in group facilities. Children are removed from their families due to neglect (such as not providing enough food for a child or leaving a child who is unable to care for herself alone) and/or physical, sexual or emotional abuse. In almost all cases, when children are removed from their parents, parents must be provided help so that they can safely parent their children. Slightly more than half of children who go into foster care return to their birth families. When parents are provided with help and they are still unable to parent safely and their children remain in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, the state files with the courts to legally terminate the parents’ rights. The children then become available for adoption. Most children are adopted by their foster parents or relatives. However, if this is not possible, states try and find other adoptive parents.