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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Please note: A child who is ‘looked after’ in Scotland includes all children looked after by a local authority, including some who remain living at home with their parents. Scotland is unique in this compared to the other UK nations.
For the purposes of comparison with other UK nations, ‘children in care’ in this section refers to children who are looked after away from their home or parents
, unless otherwise specified.

  • There are 10,895 children in care in Scotland, a 2% increase from 2019.24
  • 3,490 children entered the care system in 2020, a 9% decrease from 2019.25
  • 3,325 children left the care system in 2020, a decrease of 18% from 2019.26
  • 13% of children in care live in residential settings (n=1,436).27


  • Approximately 44% of children in care live with a foster family (n=4,744).28
  • There are approximately 3,620 approved foster care households in Scotland.29
  • 41% of children in care live with kinship carers (n=4,456).30


  • Of children who left care in 2020, 6% went on to be adopted (n=192), a 1% decrease from the previous year.31
  • 73% of children adopted were under the age of five.32

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 25% of school leavers who were in care during 2019/20 were not in further or higher education, employment, or training 9 months after leaving school, compared to 8% of all school leavers.33
  • 25% of prisoners self-identified as care experienced, with 16% of care experienced prisoners having had more than six different placements whilst in care.34
  • It is estimated that 17% of young people leaving care who are eligible for aftercare go on to make a homeless application.35

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