Caretakers can assume legal guardianship of a child in out-of-home care without termination of a child's parental rights, as is required for an adoption. A guardianship is a legal relationship in which the court appoints someone other than a parent to care for the child and manage the child's affairs.
The guardian is given many of the rights and responsibilities of a parent. Legal guardianship is more durable than a simpler transfer of custody to caretakers. Some financial assistance is available to caretakers who assume legal guardianship of a child from out-of-home care. The California Courts provide a good basic overview in their Guardianship Pamphlet (PDF).
The resources below discuss guardianship as an option for children in out-of-home care, including: