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Number of looked after children rises and number of adoptions falls

Adoptions of looked after children decrease by 28 per cent in three years

At 31 March 2018, there were 75,420 looked after children in England, up 4% on 31 March 2017. Both the number of children starting to be looked after and the number ceasing to be looked after fell; 32,050 children started to be looked after (down 3% on last year) and 29,860 ceased to be looked after (down 5%).

The figures are revealed in statistics published by the Department for Education.

The number of children looked after by local authorities in England continues the increases seen in recent years. It is currently equivalent to a rate of 64 per 10,000 in 2018, which is up from 62 per 10,000 in 2017 and 60 per 10,000 in 2016.

Most children are looked after under a care order; the numbers and proportions of children looked after under a care order continue to increase and the number who are looked after through a voluntary arrangement continue to decrease. At 31 March 2018, 55,240 (73%) children looked after were looked after under a care order, up from 40,090 (58%) in 2014. 14,500 (19%) were looked after under a voluntary agreement, down from a peak of 19,320 (28%) in 2015.

Most looked after children are accommodated in foster placements. 55,200 (73%) children looked after at 31 March 2018 were in foster placements, an increase in numbers from 53,010 in 2017, but similar proportions to previous years. An increasing proportion of those children in foster care have been placed with relative or friends, up steadily from 14% in 2014 to 18% in 2018.

44,450 (59%) of children looked after at 31 March 2018 were placed inside the local authority boundary and 30,670 (41%) were placed outside, similar to last year.

31% of children ceasing to be looked after returned home to their parents. 13% were adopted (down from 17% in 2014) and 11% ceased to be looked after with a special guardianship order.

The number of children looked after who were adopted peaked in 2015 at 5,360 and has since been falling. In 2017, 4,370 children looked after were adopted and this has decreased further by 13% to 3,820 in 2018. This is in line with the decrease in the number of looked after children with a placement order seen over recent years, which has fallen from 9,590 in 2014 to 5,360 in 2018.

3,430 (11%) of children who ceased to be looked after ceased through a special guardianship order in 2018, down from 3,720 in 2017. 54% of these were special guardianship orders made to former foster carers. The average age at special guardianship has increased from 5 years and 2 months in 2014 to 5 years and 10 months in 2018.

For the statistics, click here.