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’ 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 36,000 children and young people will enter the care system. 1 That’s 100 children every day.

There are around 103,000 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 112 per 10,000 of the under 18 population. Scotland is slightly lower at 102 per 10,000, while the rates in Northern Ireland and England are much lower at 80 per 10,000 and 67 per 10,000 respectively. 3

A need for homes

Nearly 70,000 children live with over 55,000 fostering households across the UK. (4) There are currently 1990 children waiting for adoption in England and 160 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)

More on racial disparity.

Caring for teenagers

Children in care are predominantly older with 39% aged 10-15 years and 1 in 4 (25%) aged 16 years and over. (8)

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 Policy and Research Officer, Sam – [email protected]

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Care Leavers and care-experienced young people

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2020/21, there were 570 care leavers aged 16-19 years.73
  • Of care leavers aged 19 years, 70%* are in education, training, or employment, a slight decrease from the previous year (*for whom information was available).74
  • 20% of care leavers aged 16-18 years have a Statement of Educational Need compared with the general school population at 5%.75

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • 29% of school leavers who were in care during 2020/21 were not in further or higher education, employment, or training 9 months after leaving school, compared to 7% of all school leavers.40
  • 25% of prisoners self-identified as care experienced, with 16% of care experienced prisoners having had more than six different placements whilst in care.41
  • It is estimated that 17% of young people leaving care who are eligible for aftercare go on to make a homeless application.42

Care leavers and care experienced young people

  • In 2019, 54% of care leavers were in education, training, or employment 12 months after leaving care.57
  • Around 20% of homeless people in Wales are care leavers.58
  • 25% of adult prisoners are care experienced.59

Care leavers and care-experienced young people

  • Over 10,000 young people in England age out of the care system every year on their 18th birthday.22
  • Care leavers make up 25% of the homeless population.23
  • Almost 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care,24 and nearly 50% of under 21-year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care.25
  • 7% of care leavers aged 17 years; 4% of care leavers aged 18 years and 6% of care leavers aged 19-21 are in accommodation considered to be unsuitable.26
  • 41% of care leavers aged 19-21 years are not in education, employment, or training (NEET), compared to 12% of all 19- to 21-year-olds.27
  • Just 13% of care leavers enter HE by their 19th birthday, compared to 45% of the wider population.28 Care-experienced applicants are 179% more likely to apply for health and social care than non-care-experienced students, and 50% more likely to apply for nursing and midwifery.29

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