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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Northern Ireland


  • There are 3,801 children and young people in the care system in Northern Ireland, a 5% increase from 2022 and the highest number on record since the introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.71
  • The number of children in care in Northern Ireland has risen by 35% in the last ten years and by 64% since 1999.72
  • 980 children entered the care system in 2022/23, a 9% increase since the previous year.73
  • 748 children left the care system in 2022/23, a 4% decrease from the previous year.74
  • In general, there has been a trend of children staying longer in care before being discharged. 22% of children in care have been looked after for less than a year, with 32% looked after for five years or longer.75
  • 42% of children in care are aged 12 years and over, compared to 34% of the general child population.76


  • There are approximately 2,827 foster households in Northern Ireland, this is a 6% decrease since last year when there were 3,009 households.77
  • 4 in 5 children in care are placed in a foster care arrangement, this is approximately 80% of all children in care in Northern Ireland (n=3,040). This has increased by 1% since last year.78
  • 45% of children in foster care are cared for by kinship carers.79


  • 108 children were adopted from care during 2022/23, an increase of 21% from last year and an increase of 77% from 2021. The significant increase in the number of adoptions is likely to be linked to the impact of COVID-19 on services during 2020/21.80
  • In 2022/23 69% (n=75) of the children were adopted as a single child adoption, whereas 33% (n=33) were adopted as part of a sibling group. There has been a 47% increase in children adopted as a single child adoption and a 13% decrease of the number of children adopted as part of a sibling group since last year.81
  • The average age of a child at adoption is 4 years and 4 months, two months younger than the previous year.82
  • Children wait on average 3 years and 7 months to be adopted, an increase of 3 months since last year.83

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

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