National statistics for fostering and adoption


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.

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  • 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


  • 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


  • 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

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