The figures presented below are taken from statistical reports gathered and published by government departments and bodies. Details of sources are provided at the foot of this page.

Looked After Children
  Legal Status
  Adoptions from Care
  Waiting Times
  Types of Adopters 
  Adopter Characteristics


On 31 March 2021:

  • 3,530 children were in the care of local authorities
  • the rate of all looked after children per 10,000 population under 18 years was 80

Duration in Care

On 31 March 2021:

  • 2,789 (79%) children and young people had been looked after continuously for 12 months or longer


On 31 March 2021:

  • 81% (2,857) of children looked after were living with foster carers - of which 1,400 were in non-kinship foster care, and 1,457 in kinship foster care
  • 9% (317) were placed with parent
  • 6% (199) were living in residential care
  • 4% (157) were living in other types of placements.

Legal Status

On 31 March 2021:

  • 1,906 (54%) children looked after under care orders (Article 50 or 59)
  • 953 (27%) children looked after were accommodated Article 21
  • 565 (16%) children looked after under interim care orders (Article 57)


On 30 September 2020:

  • 25% of children of compulsory school age and looked after continuously for 12 months or more had a statement of Special Educational Needs (compared with 6% of the general school population)


Adoptions from Care

57 looked after children were adopted in the year ending 31 March 2021

Waiting times

For children adopted in 2020-21, the average length of time between the last entry into care and the granting of the Adoption Order was 3 years 2 months.

Types of Adopters

During year ending 31 March 2021:

  • 56% (32) of children adopted from care were adopted by concurrent carers
  • 26% (15) of children adopted from care were adopted by dual approved carers
  • 11% (6) of children adopted from care were adopted by former foster carers
  • 7% (4) of children adopted from care were adopted by adopters only

Adopter Characteristics

During year ending 31 March 2021:

  • 84% of adopters were different sex married couples, 11% were single females adopters, and 5% were same sex or different sex unmarried couples
  • Of the adopters, 6 had previously adopted a child or children and 26% had dependent birth children in the household



Department of Health: Children's Social Care Statistics for Northern Ireland 2020-21 (previously Children Order Statistics)

The children's social care statistics for Northern Ireland provide data collected from each of the five health and social care trusts for children in need at 31 March and year ending 31 March, including the total number children in need known to social services by age, gender, religion and ethnicity and the total number of children in need referrals received by source of referral.

Department of Health: Children Adopted from Care in Northern Ireland 2020-21

The children adopted from care statistics for Northern Ireland include data on overall numbers of children adopted from care, the timing of the adoption process (duration of final period of care, durations between different stages of the adoption process, average ages of children at each stage of adoption process), the adoption process by age group, foster care adoptions and a UK adoption statistics comparison.

Department of Health: Children in Care in Northern Ireland 2019-20

The children in care in Northern Ireland statistics provide information on children in who have been looked after continuously for 12 months or longer at 30 September each year, and include data on the educational achievements of these children as well as religious background, ethnicity, disability, placement, health, economic activity and criminal convictions.