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 95,000 children in the UK who are classified as looked-after away from home. An increase of 3% 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.

At 30 September 2018, there were 2730 children waiting for adoption in England. 41% of these had been waiting eighteen months or more.

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  • There are 75,000 looked after children.
  • The number of children starting to be looked after has decreased by 3% since 2017.
  • 56% of looked after children are male and 44% are female.
  • Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children make up 6% of the looked after children population.
  • 11% of children ceased to be looked with a special guardianship order.


  • 73% of looked after children are in foster placements.
  • It is estimated that a further 6,800 foster families need to be recruited over the next year.
  • Over the past year, 10% of fostered children have had three or more placements.


  • 3,820 children were adopted last year, a 13% decrease from the previous year.
  • The average age of adoption is 3 years and 3 months.
  • The number of looked after children with a placement order for adoption has fallen by 44% since 2014.

Ethnicity of looked after children

  • 75% White
  • 9% Mixed
  • 7% Black or black British
  • 5% Asian or Asian British
  • 3% Other ethnic groups, including Chinese

Reason for becoming looked after

  • 63% Abuse or neglect
  • 15% Family dysfunction
  • 8% Family being in acute stress
  • 6% Absent parenting
  • 8% Other

Care leavers and care-experienced young people

  • Nearly half of all young men (21 and under) in custody have experience of the care system.
  • One third of care leavers become homeless within the first two years of leaving care and 25% of homeless people are care-experienced.
  • Nearly 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are NEET* compared to 12% of all 19-21 year olds.
  • 26% 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, a marginal increase on 2017.

*(not in education, training or employment)

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