National statistics for fostering and adoption


This year in the UK, over 37,000 children and young people will enter the care system. 1 That’s 102 every day.

There are around 101,500 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 114 per 10,000 under 18 population. Scotland is slightly lower at 104 per 10,000, while the rates in Northern Ireland and England are much lower at 77 per 10,000 and 67 per 10,000 respectively. 4

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  • There are approximately 80,080 looked after children in England, an increase of 2% from 2019. 5
  • 30,970 children started to be looked after in 2020, a 3% decrease from 31,770 in 2019. 6
  • 12% of children who ceased to be looked after in 2020 left under a special guardianship order. 7
  • 39% of looked after children are aged 10-15 years and 24% are aged 16 years and over. 8


  • 72% of looked after children live with foster families (n=57,380). 9
    • In 2020, there were 44,500 fostering households. 10


    • 3,440 children ceased to be looked after due to adoption, a 4% decrease from 2019. 11
    • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years old. 12
    • As of September 2020, there were 2,030 children waiting for adoption. 52% of these children had been waiting 18 months or more. 13

    Care leavers and care-experienced young people

    • Around 10,000 young people in England age out of the care system every year on their 18th birthday. 14
    • Care leavers make up 25% of the homeless population. 15
    • Almost 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care16, and nearly 50% of under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system had spent time in care. 17
    • 39% of care leavers aged 19-21 years were known not to be in education, employment, or training (NEET), compared to around 13% of all 19- to 21-year-olds. 18

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