National statistics for fostering and adoption

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

There are currently around 92,000 children in the UK who are classified as looked-after away from home. An increase of 2% from the previous year.

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

The UK urgently needs 8,100 more foster families to meet the need.

As of March 2017, there were 2580 children waiting for adoption in England. 28% of these had been waiting over a year.

Children and families in England who have been waiting longer than three months join the Adoption Register. Currently there are almost three times as many children (1115) on the Adoption Register as families (412).

To filter our statistics please select from the categories below:


Care Leavers

  • Looked after children are six times more likely than children in the general population to be convicted of a crime or receive a caution.12
  • It is estimated that up to half of all children in custody are care-experienced.13
  • One third of care leavers become homeless within the first two years of leaving care and 25% of homeless people are care-experienced.14
  • 40% of care leavers were NEET* compared to 13% of all 19-21 year olds.15
  • 25% 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.16

Reason for becoming looked after

  • 61% - abuse or neglect
  • 15% - family dysfunction
  • 8% - family being in acute stress
  • 7% - absent parenting.

Ethnicity of looked after children

  • 75% white
  • 9% mixed ethnicity
  • 7% black or black British
  • 5% Asian or Asian British
  • 3% from other ethnic groups


  • 4,350 looked after children were adopted during last year, accounting for 3% of the looked after children population.7
  • The average age of adoption is 3 years and 4 months.8
  • For children who have been adopted, the average number of days between a child entering care and moving in with their adoptive family is around 457 days.9


  • 74% of looked after children are in foster placements.4
  • It is estimated that a further 6,800 foster families need to be recruited over the next year.5
  • Over the past year, 10% of fostered children have had three or more placements.6


  • There are 72,000 looked after children.1
  • 56% of looked after children are male and 44% are female.2
  • Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children make up 6% of the looked after children population.3


Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • One third of young offenders and almost one third of the adult prison population self-identify as care-experienced.9
  • Only 16% of school leavers who have been in care for the entirety of their final year have one qualification at Level 6 or better.10
  • Between 30-50% of the homeless population are care experienced.11
  • 27% of young people leave care without a formal ‘pathway’ plan for their next steps.12


  • Around 2.7% of children looked after by local authorities go on to be adopted.5
  • Of children who are adopted, 72% of children are under the age of five.6
  • At 30 June 2018, there were 153 children and 154 adopters on Scotland’s Adoption Register.7

Ethnicity of looked after children (total looked-after population)

  • 87.5% White
  • 1.8% Mixed Ethnicity
  • 0.8% Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British
  • 0.6% Black, Black Scottish or Black British
  • 0.8% Other
  • 8.3% Unknown


  • 75% of those cared for away from home are living with foster families.3
  • It is estimated that a further 550 more foster families are needed.4


  • 11,000 children are looked after away from home.1
  • Children looked after in residential care settings comprise just under 10% of the total looked after population.2


Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 43% of care leavers aged 19 are known to be NEET*.10
  • Between 20-30% of the young homeless population are care experienced.11
  • 23% of children leaving care aged 16 or over have no formal qualifications, vocational or otherwise.12

Reason for becoming looked-after

  • 62% - Abuse or neglect
  • 27% - Family in acute stress or dysfunction
  • 6% - Parental illness, disability or absence
  • 3% - Socially unacceptable behaviour
  • 1% - Other

Ethnicity of looked after children

  • 92% - White
  • 1.4% - Black or Black British
  • 1.6% - Asian or Asian British
  • 3.5% - Mixed Ethnicity
  • 1% - Other


  • 74% of looked after children are accommodated in foster care placements.3
  • It is estimated that fostering services need to recruit a further 550 foster families.4


  • 312 children were adopted over the previous year – an 8% decrease on the previous year.5
  • 8% of looked after children were adopted by their former foster carer.6
  • As of 31 March 2018, 350 children subject to a placement order were waiting to be matched with a family.7


  • 6,000 children are classified as looked after, an increase of 5% from the previous year.1
  • 10% of looked after children had three or more placements over the past year.2

Northern Ireland

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 33% of children leaving care have no qualifications.11
  • 26% of care leavers aged 16-18 have 5 GCSEs (A*-C) or higher, compared to 82% of school leavers as a whole.12
  • 1 in 4 care leavers aged 16-18 had a statement of special educational needs.13
  • 39% of care leavers aged 19 were NEET*.14
  • 12% of all care leavers aged 19 were parents.15


  • 79% of looked after children are in foster placements.4
  • It is estimated that 200 more foster families need to be recruited.5
  • Around two fifths of children in foster care are in a kinship placement.6


  • 11% of those leaving care are adopted.7
  • Children wait on average, 3 years 2 months to be adopted.8
  • 9% of those leaving care go to live with their former foster carers via the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ (GEM) Scheme.9

Ethnicity of looked after children

  • 94% White
  • 6% Other ethnicities including mixed race, Irish/Roma Travellers, Black, Chinese and Pakistani


  • There are 3100 children classified as looked after, a 4% increase on last year.1
  • 5% of looked after children live in residential care.2
  • Just under 10% of children have been Looked After for ten years or longer.3



  • There are between 2 and 8 million children residing in orphanages globally.1
  • On average, 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent.2

The following statistics are based on reports carried out in one location:

  • 1 in 3 children exiting residential care institutions becomes homeless.3
  • 1 in 5 children exiting residential care institutions gains a criminal record.4
  • 1 in 10 children exiting residential care institutions commits suicide.5
  • In Australia, 36% of Christian churches and 52% of individual church attendees were found to support overseas residential care institutions.6

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC)

  • During 2017, 172,362 people arrived in Europe via sea: just under half were women and children.1
  • 92% of the 15,140 children who crossed the central Mediterranean between January and September 2017 were alone.2
  • In 2017, Britain received just 3% of all asylum applications in the EU.3

References and a full version of these statistics are available to download here.

For more information on statistics, visit:

Adoption UK
The Fostering Network
Department for Education

Page updated every three months. Last updated October 2018.



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