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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Northern Ireland


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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

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