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 38,792 children and young people will enter the care system.1 That is 106 children every day.

There are around 104,808 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 116 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

69,170 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 Advocacy Lead, Sam – [email protected]

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Care Leavers and care-experienced young people

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

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

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2019, 54% of care leavers were in education, training, or employment 12 months after leaving care.66
  • Around 20% of homeless people in Wales are care leavers.67
  • 25% of adult prisoners are care experienced.68

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
  • Care-experienced applicants are 179% more likely to apply for health and social care degrees than non-care-experienced students, and 50% more likely to apply for nursing and midwifery.35

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