Adopted and looked-after children

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • there were 78,150 looked-after children (children in care) in England on 31 March 2019, compared with 69,470 in 2015
  • the number of looked-after children who were adopted went down from 5,360 to 3,570 – and the percentage of children that stopped being looked after because they were adopted went down from 17% to 12%
  • White children were less likely to be in care (74%) and more likely to be adopted (83%) compared with their share of the population of all under-18 year olds (79%)
  • Black children were more likely to be in care (8%) and less likely to be adopted (2%) compared with their share of the under-18 year old population (5%)
  • Asian children were less likely to be in care (4%) and less likely to be adopted (1%) compared with their share of the under-18 year old population (10%)

2. Things you need to know

What the data measures

The data measures the number and percentage of children who were ‘looked-after’ (sometimes called ‘in care’) or adopted, by ethnicity.

A looked-after child is one who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours. They usually live:

  • with foster parents
  • in a children’s home
  • in a residential setting, like a school or secure unit

Adoption is when a court transfers responsibility for a child from those with parental responsibility (usually their birth parents or local authority) to the adopters. It is usually considered after all other options have been explored for a child.

The data is based on a snapshot taken on 31 March every year.

Population data for under-18s is taken from the 2011 Census and shown for comparison.

Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number. Total numbers of children are rounded to the nearest 10.

You can read more about child adoption on GOV.UK.

Not included in the data

Adoption is not the only possible outcome for looked-after children. This data does not include figures for other outcomes including special guardianship orders, returning to birth parents or placement in long-term foster care.

Local authority data on adoptions by ethnicity is not included.

The ethnic groups used in the data

Data is shown for the 16 ethnic groups used in the [2001 Census], and 2 extra ethnic groups:

  • White Gypsy and Roma
  • White Irish Traveller

In some places, data is shown for the following 5 aggregated groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other (including Chinese)

This is to make sure numbers are large enough to be reliable.

Methodology

Read the detailed methodology document for the data on this page.

The data on this page does not take into account factors that might affect the likelihood of looked-after children being adopted, including:

  • the child’s age
  • how long they have been in care
  • how many people are looking to adopt children
  • where they live

3. By ethnicity (looked-after and adopted children)

Percentage and number of looked-after children, looked-after children who were adopted and under-18 population, by ethnicity
Looked after children Looked after children who were adopted Under 18 population
Ethnicity Looked after children % Looked after children Number Looked after children who were adopted % Looked after children who were adopted Number Under 18 population % Under 18 population Number
Asian 4 3,480 1 50 10 1,136,293
Black 8 5,930 2 60 5 562,333
Mixed 10 7,560 11 390 5 590,017
White 74 57,780 83 2,960 79 8,903,313
Other 4 2,780 1 40 1 145,004
Unknown 1 620 2 70 N/A* N/A*

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity (looked-after and adopted children)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity (looked-after and adopted children)’ (CSV)

Summary of Adopted and looked-after children By ethnicity (looked-after and adopted children) Summary

Percentages of all under-18 year olds are taken from the 2011 Census.

The data shows that:

  • there were 78,150 looked-after children in England on 31 March 2019
  • Black children made up 5% of all under-18 year olds – they were more likely to be looked after (8%) and less likely to be adopted (2%)
  • White children made up 79% of all under-18 year olds – they were less likely to be looked after (74%) and more likely to be adopted (83%)
  • children with Mixed ethnicity made up 5% of all under-18 year olds – they were more likely to be looked after (10%) and more likely to be adopted (11%)
  • children from Other ethnic groups made up 1% of all under-18 year olds – they were more likely to be looked after (4%) and as likely to be adopted (1%)
  • children from the Asian ethnic group made up 10% of all under-18 year olds – they were less likely to be looked after (4%) and less likely to be adopted (1%)

4. By ethnicity over time (looked-after children)

Percentage and number of looked-after children, by ethnicity over time
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Ethnicity 2015 % 2015 Number 2016 % 2016 Number 2017 % 2017 Number 2018 % 2018 Number 2019 % 2019 Number
All 100 69,470 100 70,410 100 72,610 100 75,370 100 78,150
White 77 53,600 75 53,160 75 54,330 75 56,380 74 57,780
White British 73 50,400 71 49,870 70 50,910 70 52,820 69 54,060
White Irish ~0 290 ~0 260 ~0 240 ~0 230 ~0 230
Irish Traveller ~0 80 ~0 90 ~0 90 ~0 90 ~0 100
Gypsy/Roma ~0 260 ~0 280 ~0 330 ~0 380 1 440
White other 4 2,570 4 2,660 4 2,760 4 2,860 4 2,950
Mixed 9 6,400 9 6,450 9 6,830 10 7,290 10 7,560
White/Black Caribbean 3 2,400 3 2,360 3 2,450 3 2,590 3 2,630
White/Black African 1 670 1 670 1 720 1 800 1 890
White/Asian 2 1,230 2 1,240 2 1,330 2 1,380 2 1,490
Mixed other 3 2,100 3 2,180 3 2,330 3 2,520 3 2,560
Asian 4 2,670 4 3,080 5 3,380 5 3,400 4 3,480
Indian ~0 290 ~0 290 ~0 290 ~0 330 ~0 310
Pakistani 1 870 1 850 1 880 1 930 1 1,020
Bangladeshi 1 460 1 420 1 410 1 410 1 410
Asian other 1 1,040 2 1,520 2 1,790 2 1,730 2 1,730
Black 7 4,990 7 5,240 7 5,270 7 5,400 8 5,930
Black Caribbean 2 1,490 2 1,390 2 1,410 2 1,340 2 1,340
Black African 4 2,590 4 2,950 4 2,840 4 2,990 4 3,410
Black other 1 910 1 900 1 1,010 1 1,080 2 1,180
Other 2 1,590 3 2,250 3 2,480 3 2,490 4 2,780
Chinese ~0 60 ~0 80 ~0 80 ~0 90 ~0 100
Any other 2 1,530 3 2,170 3 2,400 3 2,400 3 2,690
Unknown ~0 230 ~0 240 ~0 330 1 420 1 620

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time (looked-after children)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time (looked-after children)’ (CSV)

Summary of Adopted and looked-after children By ethnicity over time (looked-after children) Summary

The data shows that, between 2015 and 2019:

  • the number of looked-after children went up from 69,470 to 78,150 – an increase of 12%
  • the percentage of looked-after children who were from Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined went up from 18% to 22%
  • the percentage of looked-after children who were White went down from 77% to 74%

5. By ethnicity over time (number of looked-after children who were adopted)

Percentage and number of looked-after children who were adopted, by ethnicity over time
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Ethnicity 2015 % 2015 Number 2016 % 2016 Number 2017 % 2017 Number 2018 % 2018 Number 2019 % 2019 Number
All 100 5,360 100 4,710 100 4,370 100 3,850 100 3,570
Asian 2 90 2 90 1 60 1 50 1 50
Black 2 120 2 120 2 90 2 70 2 60
Mixed 11 580 11 500 11 460 10 380 11 390
White 83 4,430 83 3,890 84 3,660 84 3,230 83 2,960
Other including Chinese 1 50 1 40 1 40 1 50 1 40
Unknown 2 100 2 70 1 60 2 80 2 70

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time (number of looked-after children who were adopted)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time (number of looked-after children who were adopted)’ (CSV)

Summary of Adopted and looked-after children By ethnicity over time (number of looked-after children who were adopted) Summary

The data shows that, between 2015 and 2019:

  • the number of looked-after children who were adopted went down by 33%, from 5,360 to 3,570
  • the number of looked-after children from White and Mixed ethnic backgrounds who were adopted went down by 33%
  • the number of Black looked-after children who were adopted went down by 50%

6. By ethnicity over time (children who stopped being looked after due to adoption)

Percentage of children who stopped being looked after because they were adopted, within ethnic groups over time
Ethnicity 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
% % % % %
All 17 15 14 13 12
Asian 5 4 3 2 3
Black 4 4 3 2 2
Mixed 20 18 17 15 15
White 20 17 17 16 15
Other including Chinese 5 4 2 3 2
Unknown 24 21 19 20 20

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time (children who stopped being looked after due to adoption)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time (children who stopped being looked after due to adoption)’ (CSV)

Summary of Adopted and looked-after children By ethnicity over time (children who stopped being looked after due to adoption) Summary

The data shows that:

  • between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of children who stopped being looked after because they were adopted went down from 17% to 12%
  • in 2019, 15% of children from the Mixed and White ethnic groups stopped being looked after because they were adopted, down from 20% in 2015
  • 2% of children from each of the Black and Other ethnic groups and 3% of Asian children stopped being looked after because they were adopted

7. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Department for Education

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

This data gives information about looked-after children in England, including:

  • their characteristics
  • their placement type
  • the number of children starting to be looked after, and the number stopping
  • children who go missing or are away from their placement without authorisation
  • health and behavioural outcomes
  • children who were placed for adoption, who were adopted and the average time between stages of the adoption process

8. Download the data

Adopted and looked after children - Spreadsheet (csv) 32 KB

This file contains the following variables: Measure, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_Type, Time, Time_type, Geography, Count, Value, Value_type