Statistics

National statistics for fostering and adoption


Statistics

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



To filter our statistics please select from the categories below:

England

Overview

  • There are approximately 80,080 looked after children in England, an increase of 2% from 2019. 5
  • 30,970 children started to be looked after in 2020, a 3% decrease from 31,770 in 2019. 6
  • 12% of children who ceased to be looked after in 2020 left under a special guardianship order. 7
  • 39% of looked after children are aged 10-15 years and 24% are aged 16 years and over. 8

Fostering

  • 72% of looked after children live with foster families (n=57,380). 9
    • In 2020, there were 44,500 fostering households. 10

    Adoption

    • 3,440 children ceased to be looked after due to adoption, a 4% decrease from 2019. 11
    • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years old. 12
    • As of September 2020, there were 2,030 children waiting for adoption. 52% of these children had been waiting 18 months or more. 13

    Care leavers and care-experienced young people

    • Around 10,000 young people in England age out of the care system every year on their 18th birthday. 14
    • Care leavers make up 25% of the homeless population. 15
    • Almost 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care16, and nearly 50% of under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system had spent time in care. 17
    • 39% of care leavers aged 19-21 years were known not to be in education, employment, or training (NEET), compared to around 13% of all 19- to 21-year-olds. 18

    Scotland

    Overview

    Please note: A child classified as ‘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, ‘looked after’ here refers to children looked after away from their home or parents.

    • There are 10,895 looked after children away from home, an increase of 2% from 2019. 19
    • 3,490 children started to be looked after in 2020, a 9% decrease from 2019. 20
    • 13% of looked after children are cared for in residential settings (n=1,436). 21

    Fostering

    • Approximately 44% of looked after children live with foster families (n=4,744). 22
    • 41% of looked after children live with kinship carers (n=4,456). 23
    • There are approximately 3,800 foster families in Scotland. 24

    Adoption

    • Of children who ceased to be looked after in 2020, 6% went on to be adopted (n=192), a 1% decrease from the previous year. 25
    • 73% of children adopted were under the age of five. 26

    Care leavers and care experienced young people

    • 32% of school leavers who were looked after within the last year were not in further or higher education, employment, or training 9 months after leaving school, compared to only 9% of all school leavers. 27
    • 25% of prisoners self-identified as care experienced, with 16% of care experienced prisoners having had more than six different placements whilst in care. 28
    • It is estimated that 17% of young people leaving care who are eligible for aftercare go on to make a homeless application. 29

    Wales

    Overview

    • On 31 March 2020, there were 7,172 looked after children, an increase of 5% (n=338) from the previous year. 30
    • 1,967 children started to be looked after in 2019/20, a decrease of 7% from the previous year. 31
    • 37% of looked after children were aged 10-15 years, but the highest rate of children looked after by age was for those over 16 years old. 32
    • Over the past 5 years, there has been a 60% rise in looked after children being placed with kinship carers. 33

    Fostering

    • 70% of looked after children live with foster families (n=4,989). 34
    • There are approximately 3,700 foster families in Wales. 35

    Adoption

    • 297 children were adopted in 2019/20, a 4% decrease from the previous year. 36
    • The average age of children adopted during 2019/20 was 3 years old. 37
    • On 31 March 2020, 270 children were waiting to be matched or placed with a new family, a decrease of 20% from the previous year. 38

    Care leavers and care experienced young people

    • In 2019, 54% of care leavers were in education, training, or employment at 12 months after leaving care. 39
    • Around 20% of homeless people in Wales are care leavers. 40
    • 25% of adult prisoners are care experienced. 41

    Northern Ireland

    Overview

    • 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

    Fostering

    • 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

    Adoption

    • 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 52

    • There were 537 care leavers in 2019/20 aged 16-19 years.
    • 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).
    • 1 in 7 care leavers aged 19 years had a disability (14%).

    Global

    Orphanages

    • There are an estimated 5.4 million children living in orphanages around the world. 53
    • On average, 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent. 54
    • Research shows that poverty, rather than abuse or neglect, is the main driver causing parents to relinquish their children to orphanages. 55
    • Over 80 years of research shows that institutional care has detrimental effects on children’s physical, cognitive, social, and psychological development. 56
    • 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%). 57
    • In 2019, 44% of practicing Christians said that they had financially supported an overseas residential care facility in the past 12 months. 58


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

    Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC)

    • In 2019, around 9,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived in Europe. 59
    • As of 27 July 2020, 480 UASC have been transferred to the UK from France, Greece, and Italy under the ‘Dubs amendment’ (Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016). 60
    • A further 416 children were resettled under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) in the year ending March 2020, bringing the total to 1,826 since the scheme began in 2016. 61
    • Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) make up 6% of looked after children in England.62
    • 90% of UASC are male and 86% are aged 16 years and over. 63

    Reference information is available here.

    Last updated: April 2021.

     

     

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