What Is Spanish for 'Foster Child'?

Culturally Specific Terms Can Pose Translation Challenge

baby sleeping
Mis amigos tiene un niño en adopción temporal. (My neighbors have a foster child.). Toshiyuki IMAI/Creative Commons.

Translating terms from English to Spanish can be a challenge when Spanish-speaking listeners might not be familiar with the social and cultural factors involved.

An example is trying to translate "foster child." The problem is that the term refers to a specific legal arrangement that exists in the United States, and there isn't always an exact equivalent elsewhere. So if you need precision in communicating your idea, you may need to explain what it is that you mean.

Quick research indicates that possible terms you might use for "foster child" include niño en acogida (literally, a child taken in, a term used in Spain) or niño en adopción temporal (literally, a temporarily adopted child, a term used in at least three South American countries). But it's hard to say if either one of these terms would be universally understood correctly without explanation.

This may sound like a copout, but if you're referring to the arrangement that's common in the United States, what you might choose to do is simply adopt the English word and give a brief explanation: niño foster. That's not an original idea — a quick web search finds many U.S. school districts doing exactly that in their Spanish-language documents. Such a "translation" may not be pretty, but sometimes these solutions are the best that can be done.