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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  • 266 children were adopted from care in 2020/21, a decrease of 11% from the previous year.44
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 1 month.45
  • In 2021, the average length of time for children from entry into care to adoption was 2 years and 4 months.46
  • At 31 March 2021, just over 160 children were waiting for their adoptive family, a decrease of 20% from the previous year.47


  • 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


  • In 2021, 2,870 children were adopted, an 18% decrease from 2020.14
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 3 months.15
  • At 30 June 2021, there were 2,040 children waiting for adoption. 51% of these children have been waiting 18 months or more.16
  • 65% of children waiting for an adoptive family for 18 months or more are under 5 years old, 57% are male, 22% are from an ethnic minority background, 8% have a disability, and 51% are part of a sibling group.17


  • 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

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