Statistics

National statistics for fostering and adoption


Why we track national statistics

At Home for Good we are committed to finding a home for every child who needs one through adoption, fostering or supported lodgings. Alongside working ‘bottom-up’ to find homes and mobilising support to wrap around carers, we also work ‘top-down’ to help find solutions to the complex challenges the sector faces. Digging deeper into these figures helps us to be more effective. Whether in unpacking the geographical nuances in the data, highlighting racial disparity in the system, or identifying barriers that hinder progress, the numbers matter.

It is of paramount importance we remember that these figures tell stories – thousands of stories – of children waiting too long for the stability, care and love they need. They are not data points or lines on a spreadsheet, but precious children who need loving homes where they can thrive. Everyone has a part they can play. We work with policymakers and politicians, local authorities and agencies, volunteers, churches, individuals and families and we won’t stop. Together we can find a home for every child who needs one.


UK-wide statistics

This year in the UK around 38,580 children and young people will enter the care system.1 That is 105 children every day.

There are around 104,680 children in the UK who are looked after away from home.2

Wales has the highest rate of looked after children away from home in the UK at 112 per 10,000 of the under 18 population. Scotland has a slightly lower rate at 98 per 10,000 while the rates in Northern Ireland and England are much lower at 82 per 10,000 and 71 per 10,000 respectively.3



A need for homes

69,130 children live with over 53,000 fostering households across the UK. (4) There are currently 2210 children waiting for adoption in England and 219 children waiting for adoption in Wales. (5)

Read Katie’s fostering story here. Read Victoria’s adoption story here.

Racial disparity

Black children are disproportionately represented in our care system. While Black children make up 5% of the general population, they make up 7% of the looked after children population. (6) Black children are then less likely to go on to be adopted and wait longer to find their adoptive family. (7) When other factors are held constant, Black children spend on average 6.5-8 months longer in the adoption process before moving in with their adoptive family. (8)

More on racial disparity.

Caring for teenagers

Children in care are predominantly older with 38% aged 10-15 years and 26% aged 16 years and over. (9)

Read our 'Brimming with Potential' report Read Dave’s caring for teenagers story here.



(Reference information is available here.)

Are you using our statistics? Get in touch with our Policy and Research Officer, Sam – [email protected]



To filter our statistics please select from the categories below:

England

Overview

  • There are 83,840 children in the care system in England, an increase of 2% from 2022 and a 23% increase from 2013.10
  • 33,000 children entered the care system in 2023, a 6% increase from 2022 and an increase of 14% from 2013.11
  • 31,680 children left the care system in 2023. This is an increase of 5% from 2022 and an increase of 11% from 2013.12
  • 12% of children who left care in 2023 left under a special guardianship order and 9% left through adoption. There has been a 2% decrease in the number of children adopted compared to 2022.13
  • Children in care are predominantly older with 38% aged 10-15 years and 26% aged 16 years and over.14
  • During 2022/23, 69% of children in care had one placement in the year, while 10% experienced high instability (3 or more placements).15
  • 21% of children in care are placed over 20 miles from their home area.16

Fostering

  • 68% of children in care live with a foster family (n=57,020) this has decreased 2% since 2022.17
  • There are 43,405 fostering households in England. This is a 1% decrease since 2022 and a 2% decrease since 2019.18
  • At the end of March 2023 there were 3,805 new approved fostering households.19
  • There are now 59,308 approved foster cares in England. This is a 3% decrease since 2022 and an 8% decrease since 2019.20

Adoption

  • In 2023, 2,960 children were adopted, a 2% decrease from 2022.21
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 5 months.22
  • In 2023, the average time between a child entering care and being placed for adoption was 1 year and 7 months, up from 1 year 6 months last year. It then takes a further 10 months (on average) for an adoption order to be granted and the adoption to be completed.23
  • As of October 2023, there were 2210 children waiting for adoption this is an decrease of 25% since 2022. 48% of these children have been waiting for 18 months or more, a 4% decrease from last year.24
  • In 2023, Children aged over 5, male, from an Ethnic Minority (excludes White minorities) background, with a disability and in a sibling group were more likely to be waiting with a PO and less likely to be adopted.25

Care leavers and care-experienced young people

  • In 2023 12,200 young people in England aged out of the care system on their 18th Birthday. This has increased by 2% since 2022, and increased by 7% since 2019.26
  • The number of care leavers aged 18-25 facing homelessness in 2022/23 has risen to 3,710, a 9% increase from the previous year (n=3,390).27
  • Care leavers make up 25% of the adult homeless population.28
  • Almost 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care,29 and nearly 50% of under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care.30
  • Looked-after children are more at risk of interacting with the criminal justice system in early adulthood than their peers. Among looked-after children 52% were convicted of a criminal offence by the academic year they turned the age of 24, compared to 13% of children who had not experienced care.31
  • 8% of care leavers aged 17 years; 3% of care leavers aged 18 years and 6% of care leavers aged 19-21 are in accommodation considered to be unsuitable.32
  • 38% of care leavers aged 19-21 years are not in education, employment, or training (NEET), compared to 13% of all 19- to 21-year-olds. The number of care leavers aged 19-21 who are not in education, employment, or training has decreased by 3% since 2022.33
  • Just 14% of care leavers enter HE by their 19th birthday, compared to 47% of the wider population.34

Scotland

Overview

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 9,959 children in care in Scotland, a 4% decrease from 2021 and a 10% decrease since 2012.36
  • 2,909 children entered the care system in 2022, a 1% increase from 2021 and a 40% decrease since 2012.37
  • 3,550 children left the care system in 2022, a decrease of 11% from 2021 and a decrease of 26% since 2012.38
  • 6% of children ceasing to be looked after had been looked after for under 6 weeks.39
  • 13% of children in care live in residential setting (n=1,284).40

Fostering

  • Approximately 42% of children in care live with a foster family (n=4,155).41
  • There are approximately 3,261 approved foster care households in Scotland. This is a 5% decrease from 2021 and a 13% decrease since 2018.42
  • 43% of children in care live with kinship carers (n=4249).43

Adoption

  • Of children who left care in 2022 5% went on to be adopted (n=193), a slight decrease since 2021 (6%) and 2012 (6%).44
  • In 2022, 181 children were placed with adoptive families, this is a 9% decrease since 2021.45
  • 49% of children who were approved for adoption were under the age of two.46
  • In 2022, 41% of children that were waiting to be adopted were part of a family group that services were trying to keep together.47

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 30% of school leavers who were in care during 2021/22 were not in further or higher education, employment, or training 9months after leaving school, compared to 7% of all school leavers.48
  • 25% of prisoners self-identified as care experienced, with 16% of care experienced prisoners having had more than six different placements whilst in care.49
  • It is estimated that 17% of young people leaving care who are eligible for aftercare go on to make a homeless application.50
  • 5% of all homeless households with a household member under the age of 25 contain a member under 25 that has been looked after by their local authority as a child.51

Wales

Overview

  • There are 7,080 children in care in Wales, a decrease of 2% (n=167) since 2021.52
  • 1,691 children entered the care system in 2021/22, a decrease of 4% (n=71) from the previous year.53
  • 1,839 children left the care system during 2021/22, an increase of  9% from the previous year.54
  • 23% of children in care are aged 5-9 years, 39% are aged 10-15 years, and 17% are aged 16 and over.55
  • There has been a gradual decline in the percentage of children looked after in foster care placements, from a high of 79% on 31 March 2011 to 69% on 31 March 2022.56
  • 9% of children in care had three or more placements during 2021/22.57
  • For the first time since 2014-15, more children left care than started to be looked after during 2021/22.58
  • 27% of children who are in placements outside of their home were placed outside of their local authority, and 6% were placed outside of Wales.59

Fostering

  • 69% of children in care live with a foster family (n=4,915).60
  • There has been a gradual decline in the percentage of children looked after in foster care from a high of  79% on 31 March 2011.61
  • There are approximately, 3,800 foster families in Wales.62
  • 10% of young people who left care having turned 18 in 2021/22 continued to live with their former foster parents under ‘When I am Ready’ arrangements.63

Adoption

  • 283 children were adopted from care in 2021/22, an increase of 4% from the previous year.64
  • The number of children adopted from care had been decreasing in recent years from a high of 385 children adopted during 2014-15.65
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 4 months.66
  • In 2022, the average length of time for children from entry into care to adoption was 2 years and 6 months.67

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2019, 54% of care leavers were in education, training, or employment 12 months after leaving care.68
  • Around 20% of homeless people in Wales are care leavers.69
  • 25% of adult prisoners are care experienced.70

Northern Ireland

Overview

  • There are 3,801 children and young people in the care system in Northern Ireland, a 5% increase from 2022 and the highest number on record since the introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.71
  • The number of children in care in Northern Ireland has risen by 35% in the last ten years and by 64% since 1999.72
  • 980 children entered the care system in 2022/23, a 9% increase since the previous year.73
  • 748 children left the care system in 2022/23, a 4% decrease from the previous year.74
  • In general, there has been a trend of children staying longer in care before being discharged. 22% of children in care have been looked after for less than a year, with 32% looked after for five years or longer.75
  • 42% of children in care are aged 12 years and over, compared to 34% of the general child population.76

Fostering

  • There are approximately 2,827 foster households in Northern Ireland, this is a 6% decrease since last year when there were 3,009 households.77
  • 4 in 5 children in care are placed in a foster care arrangement, this is approximately 80% of all children in care in Northern Ireland (n=3,040). This has increased by 1% since last year.78
  • 45% of children in foster care are cared for by kinship carers.79

Adoption

  • 108 children were adopted from care during 2022/23, an increase of 21% from last year and an increase of 77% from 2021. The significant increase in the number of adoptions is likely to be linked to the impact of COVID-19 on services during 2020/21.80
  • In 2022/23 69% (n=75) of the children were adopted as a single child adoption, whereas 33% (n=33) were adopted as part of a sibling group. There has been a 47% increase in children adopted as a single child adoption and a 13% decrease of the number of children adopted as part of a sibling group since last year.81
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 4 years and 4 months, two months younger than the previous year.82
  • Children wait on average 3 years and 7 months to be adopted, an increase of 3 months since last year.83

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2021/22, there were 320 young people aged 16-18 that left care in Northern Ireland, a decrease of 4% from 2020/21 (n=332).84
  • The majority of care leavers in Northern Ireland (86%) stay in care until they reach the age of 18.85
  • Of care leavers aged 16-18 in 2021/22 35% did not have any qualifications at the time of leaving care, a rise in 2% since last year.86
  • Of care leavers aged 19 years, 74%* are in education, training, or employment, a 4% increase from the previous year (*for whom information was available).87

Global

Orphanages

  • There are an estimated 5.4 million children living in orphanages around the world.88
  • On average, 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent.89
  • Research shows that poverty, rather than abuse or neglect, is the main driver causing parents to relinquish their children to orphanages.90
  • Over 80 years of research shows that institutional care has detrimental effects on children’s physical, cognitive, social, and psychological development.91
  • In 2018, regular churchgoers were 7 times more likely than British adults overall to say that they were actively involved with visiting or volunteering in overseas orphanages (7% vs. 1%).92
  • In 2019, 44% of practicing Christians said that they had financially supported an overseas residential care facility in the past 12 months.93

For more information on how to support vulnerable children overseas, please visit our Homecoming project website.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC)

  • In 2020, worldwide, 21,000 children applied for asylum having arrived in the country of refuge alone, with no parent or guardian. 94
  • In the year ending September 2023, the UK received 4,656 applications for asylum from unaccompanied children, this was 16% less than in the year ending September 2022.95
  • As of 31 March 2023, there are 7,290 UASC in care in England, an increase of 29% since 2022, and 37% since 2021. This also means a 42% increase upon the 2019 pre-pandemic figure.96
  • UASC make up 9% of children in care in England, this has seen an increase of 2% since last year.97
  • 96% of UASC are maleand 86% are aged 16 years and over (in England).98

Reference information is available here.

Last updated: January 2024.

 

 

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