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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Northern Ireland


  • In 2019/20, there were 3,383 looked after children, a 3% increase from the previous year. 42
  • The number of looked after children in Northern Ireland has risen by 30% in the last ten years. 43
  • During 2019/20, 896 children started being looked after, a 1% increase from the previous year. 44


  • 79% of looked after children live with foster families, the same as last year (n=2664). 45
  • There are approximately 2,500 foster families in Northern Ireland. 46
  • 40% of children in foster care are in a kinship placement (n=1,346). 47


  • 111 children were adopted from care during 2019/20, an increase of 52% from last year. 48
  • The average age of children at the time of adoption was 4 years 2 months. 49
  • Children wait on average 3 years and 1 month to be adopted. 50
  • 33% of children who were adopted were aged 5-15 years. 51

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • There were 537 care leavers in 2019/20 aged 16-19 years.52
  • Of care leavers aged 19 years in 2019/20, 73%* were in education, training, or employment, a notable increase from 63% for the previous year (*for whom information was available).52
  • 1 in 7 care leavers aged 19 years had a disability (14%).52

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