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).

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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

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