National statistics for fostering and adoption

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This year in the UK, around 40,000 children and young people will enter the care system. That’s 109 every day.

There are currently around 99,000 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 to recruit 8,600 more foster families to meet the need.

At 31 December 2018, there were 2750 children waiting for adoption in England. 39% of these had been waiting eighteen months or more.

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Northern Ireland


  • There are 3280 children classified as looked after, a 6% increase on last year.1
  • 6% of looked after children live in residential care.2
  • 54% of children in care have been looked after for less than three years and just under 10% of children have been looked after for ten years or longer.3


  • 79% of looked after children are in foster placements.4
  • It is estimated that 250 more foster families need to be recruited.5
  • 48% of children in foster care are in a kinship placement.6


  • 9% of those leaving care are adopted.7
  • Children wait on average, 3 years and 1 month to be adopted.8
  • 14% of those leaving care go to live with their former foster carers via the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ (GEM) Scheme.9

Ethnicity of looked after children

  • 93% White
  • 7% Other ethnicities including mixed race, Irish/Roma Travellers, Black, Chinese and Pakistani

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 31% of children leaving care have no qualifications.11
  • 27% of care leavers aged 16-18 have 5 GCSEs (A*-C) or higher.12
  • Nearly 1 in 4 care leavers aged 16-18 had a statement of special educational needs.13
  • 35% of care leavers aged 19 were NEET*.14
  • 12% of all care leavers aged 19 were parents.15

*(not in education, employment or training)

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