Statistics

National statistics for fostering and adoption


Statistics

This year in the UK, around 35,000 children and young people will enter the care system. 1 That’s 95 children every day.

There are around 103,000 children in the UK who are looked after away from home. 2

Nearly 70,000 children live with almost 55,000 fostering households across the UK. 3

Wales has the highest rate of looked after children away from home in the UK at 115 per 10,000 of the under 18 population. Scotland is slightly lower at 104 per 10,000, while the rates in Northern Ireland and England are much lower at 80 per 10,000 and 67 per 10,000 respectively. 4

There are currently 2,040 children waiting for adoption in England and 160 children waiting for adoption in Wales.5*

* Equivalent data is not available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.



To filter our statistics please select from the categories below:

England

Overview

  • There are 80,850 children in the care system in England, an increase of 1% from 2020 and an all-time high.6
  • 28,440 children entered the care system in 2021, an 8% decrease from 2020.7
  • 28,010 children left the care system in 2021.8
  • 14% of children who left care in 2021 left under a special guardianship order and 10% left through adoption.9
  • 39% of children in care are aged 10-15 years and 23% are aged 16 years and over.10
  • During 2020/21, 70% of children in care had one placement in the year, but 9% had three or more.11

Fostering

  • 71% of children in care live with a foster family (n=57,340).12
  • There are 45,370 fostering households and 76,640 foster carers in England.13

Adoption

  • In 2021, 2,870 children were adopted, an 18% decrease from 2020.14
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 3 months.15
  • At 30 June 2021, there were 2,040 children waiting for adoption. 51% of these children have been waiting 18 months or more.16
  • 65% of children waiting for an adoptive family for 18 months or more are under 5 years old, 57% are male, 22% are from an ethnic minority background, 8% have a disability, and 51% are part of a sibling group.17

Care leavers and care-experienced young people

  • Over 10,000 young people in England age out of the care system every year on their 18th birthday.18
  • Care leavers make up 25% of the homeless population.19
  • Almost 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care,20 and nearly 50% of under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care.21
  • 41% of care leavers aged 19-21 years are not in education, employment, or training (NEET), compared to 12% of all 19- to 21-year-olds.22
  • 7% of care leavers aged 17 years are in accommodation considered to be unsuitable.23

Scotland

Overview

Please note: A child who is ‘looked after’ in Scotland includes all children looked after by a local authority, including some who remain living at home with their parents. Scotland is unique in this compared to the other UK nations.
For the purposes of comparison with other UK nations, ‘children in care’ in this section refers to children who are looked after away from their home or parents
, unless otherwise specified.

  • There are 10,895 children in care in Scotland, a 2% increase from 2019.24
  • 3,490 children entered the care system in 2020, a 9% decrease from 2019.25
  • 3,325 children left the care system in 2020, a decrease of 18% from 2019.26
  • 13% of children in care live in residential settings (n=1,436).27

Fostering

  • Approximately 44% of children in care live with a foster family (n=4,744).28
  • There are approximately 3,620 approved foster care households in Scotland.29
  • 41% of children in care live with kinship carers (n=4,456).30

Adoption

  • Of children who left care in 2020, 6% went on to be adopted (n=192), a 1% decrease from the previous year.31
  • 73% of children adopted were under the age of five.32

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 25% of school leavers who were in care during 2019/20 were not in further or higher education, employment, or training 9 months after leaving school, compared to 8% of all school leavers.33
  • 25% of prisoners self-identified as care experienced, with 16% of care experienced prisoners having had more than six different placements whilst in care.34
  • It is estimated that 17% of young people leaving care who are eligible for aftercare go on to make a homeless application.35

Wales

Overview

  • There are 7,263 children in care in Wales, an increase of 2% (n=113) from 2020.36
  • 1,747 children entered the care system in 2020/21, a decrease of 12% from the previous year.37
  • 1,657 children left the care system during 2020/21, a decrease of 1% from the previous year.38
  • 23% of children in care are aged 5-9 years, 38% are aged 10-15 years, and 16% are aged 16 and over.39
  • Over the past 5 years, there has been a 59% increase in the number of children in care who are placed with kinship carers.40
  • 7% of children in care had three or more placements during 2020/21.41

Fostering

  • 70% of children in care live with a foster family (n=5,072).42
  • There are approximately 3,700 foster families in Wales.43

Adoption

  • 266 children were adopted from care in 2020/21, a decrease of 11% from the previous year.44
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 1 month.45
  • In 2021, the average length of time for children from entry into care to adoption was 2 years and 4 months.46
  • At 31 March 2021, just over 160 children were waiting for their adoptive family, a decrease of 20% from the previous year.47

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2019, 54% of care leavers were in education, training, or employment 12 months after leaving care.48
  • Around 20% of homeless people in Wales are care leavers.49
  • 25% of adult prisoners are care experienced.50

Northern Ireland

Overview

  • There are 3,530 children in the care system in Northern Ireland, a 4% increase from 2020.51
  • The number of children in care in Northern Ireland has risen by 41% in the last ten years.52
  • 893 children entered the care system in 2020/21, a similar number to the previous year.53
  • 726 children left the care system in 2020/21, a 3% decrease from the previous year.54
  • 41% of children in care are aged 12 years and over, compared to 33% of the general child population.55

Fostering

  • There are approximately 2,800 foster families in Northern Ireland.56
  • 81% of children in care live with a foster family, the same as last year (n=2,857).57
  • 41% of children in foster care are cared for by kinship carers (n=1,457).58

Adoption

  • 57 children were adopted from care during 2020/21, a decrease of 49% from last year. The drop in the number of adoptions could be linked to the impact of COVID-19 on services.59
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 10 months, four months younger than last year.60
  • Children wait on average 3 years and 2 months to be adopted, similar to the last three years.61
  • 21% of children who were adopted were aged 5-9 years.62

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2019/20, there were 537 care leavers aged 16-19 years.63
  • Of care leavers aged 19 years, 73%* are in education, training, or employment, a notable increase from 63% for the previous year (*for whom information was available).64
  • 1 in 7 care leavers aged 19 years have a disability (14%).65

Global

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC)

  • In 2019, around 9,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived in Europe.72
  • As of 27 July 2020, 480 UASC have been transferred to the UK from France, Greece, and Italy under the ‘Dubs amendment’ (Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016).73
  • A further 416 children were resettled under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) in the year ending March 2020, bringing the total to 1,826 since the scheme began in 2016.74
  • UASC make up 5% of children in care in England.75
  • 92% of UASC are male and 87% are aged 16 years and over.76

Orphanages

  • There are an estimated 5.4 million children living in orphanages around the world.66
  • On average, 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent.67
  • Research shows that poverty, rather than abuse or neglect, is the main driver causing parents to relinquish their children to orphanages.68
  • Over 80 years of research shows that institutional care has detrimental effects on children’s physical, cognitive, social, and psychological development.69
  • In 2018, regular churchgoers were 7 times more likely than British adults overall to say that they were actively involved with visiting or volunteering in overseas orphanages (7% vs. 1%).70
  • In 2019, 44% of practicing Christians said that they had financially supported an overseas residential care facility in the past 12 months.71


For more information on how to support vulnerable children overseas, please visit our Homecoming project website.

Reference information is available here.

Last updated: December 2021.

 

 

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