National statistics for fostering and adoption

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This year in the UK, around 40,000 children and young people will enter the care system. That’s 109 every day.

There are currently around 99,000 children in the UK who are classified as looked-after away from home. An increase of 3% from the previous year.

More than 65,000 children live with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK.

The UK urgently needs to recruit 8,600 more foster families to meet the need.

At 31 December 2018, there were 2750 children waiting for adoption in England. 39% of these had been waiting eighteen months or more.

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  • There are approximately 78,000looked after children.1
  • The number of children starting to be looked after (31,680) has fallen by 2% from 2018 (32,050).2
  • 56% of looked after children are male and 44% are female.3
  • Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children make up 6% of the looked after children population.4
  • 13% of children ceased to be looked due to receiving a special guardianship order.5


  • 72% of looked after children are in foster placements.6
  • It is estimated that a further 7,220foster families need to be recruited over the next year.7
  • Over the past year, 10% of fostered children have had three or more placements.8


  • 3,570 children ceased to be looked after due to adoption, a 7% decrease from 2018.9
  • The average age of adoption is 3 years and 1 month.10
  • The number of looked after children with a placement order for adoption has fallen by 35% since 2015.11

Ethnicity of looked after children

  • 74% White
  • 10% Mixed
  • 8% Black or black British
  • 4% Asian or Asian British
  • 4% Other ethnic groups, including Chinese

Reason for becoming looked after

  • 63% Abuse or neglect
  • 14% Family dysfunction
  • 8% Family being in acute stress
  • 7% Absent parenting
  • 3% Child’s disability
  • 3% Parent’s illness
  • 2% Other

Care leavers and care-experienced young people

  • Nearly half of all young men (21 and under) in custody have experience of the care system.14
  • One third of care leavers become homeless within the first two years of leaving care15 and 25% of homeless people are care experienced.16
  • 39% of care leavers aged 19-21 were NEET* compared to 12%of all 19-21 year olds.17
  • 26% of 19 and 20-year olds continue to live with their former foster carers through ‘Staying Put’ despite ceasing to be looked after on their 18th birthday, the same as 2018.18

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