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Adoption statistics cover number of adoptions (by type) and age of adopted child. They show figures produced using two different definitions: date of entry into the Adopted Children Register and date of court order.


Adoptions in England and Wales
Department: Office for National Statistics
Annual adoptions statistics following court orders. Analysed by sex, age and marital status of biological parents.
Adoptions, Outcomes and Placements for Children Looked After by Local Authorities in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Presents figures about children looked after by local authorities in Wales.
Families and Households
Department: Office for National Statistics
Presents estimates of families by type, including married and cohabiting couple families and lone parents. Tables on household size and household types are also provided.
Fostering and Adoption Intermediary Services
Department: Welsh Government
Statistics on fostering and adoption intermediary services.
Private Fostering in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This statistical release provides information on fostering in Wales.

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There were 4,472 children entered into the Adopted Children Register following court orders made in 2010. This was 189 less than in 2009, representing a decrease of 4.1 per cent. However the 2010 figure continues a period of relative stability in adoption numbers following the 9.6 per cent fall seen between 2005 and 2006.

The proportion of children adopted who were aged four and under has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Fifty-eight per cent of children adopted in 2010 were aged between one and four, compared with 41 per cent in 2000. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of children adopted in 2010 were aged between five and nine. This is a fall of 5 percentage points since 2000 when 31 per cent of children adopted were aged between five and nine. The proportion of children adopted who were aged 10 and over decreased very slightly between 2009 and 2010.

Eighty per cent of children entered into the Adopted Children Register following court orders made in 2010 were born outside of marriage. This is the same as in 2009 and 11 percentage points higher than in 2000 showing the increasing proportion of adopted children born outside of marriage over the last 10 years.

Longer-term trends based on the date of entry in the Adopted Children Register show that the number of adoptions in England and Wales fell rapidly during the late 1970s (there were 22,502 adoptions in 1974 falling to 10,870 by 1979) and continued to fall steadily over the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1970s, there was a rapid decline in the number of children available for adoption following the introduction of legal abortion in the Abortion Act 1967 and the implementation of the Children Act 1975. This latter Act gave the court power to treat an adoption application as an application for a custodianship order if the court considered this to be in the child’s best interests.

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Technical Data

On 30 December 2005, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (the 2002 Act) was fully implemented. It replaced the Adoption Act 1976 and modernised the legal framework for adoption in England and Wales. The 2002 Act provides for an adoption order to be made in favour of single people, married couples and, for the first time, civil partners, and unmarried couples (whether of different sexes or the same sex) living as partners in an enduring family relationship.

The 2002 Act provides for a partner or civil partner of a child’s parent to adopt the child without having to adopt jointly with the child’s parent. The child’s parent does not lose parental responsibility though the other birth parent does lose parental responsibility. This provision applies equally to spouses.

The 2002 Act introduced Special Guardianship as a new legal permanence option for children who cannot live with their birth families, but for whom adoption is not suitable.

Adoption orders are made by the High Court, county courts and Magistrates’ Courts. The order granting an adoption contains a direction to the Registrar General to make an entry in the Adopted Children Register recording particulars of the adopted child and the adoptive parent(s) that are set out in the order. Before granting an order, the court examines a certificate of the child’s original birth entry.

The order is the only document which contains details of a child’s birth identity and his or her identity after adoption. The Registrar General has a statutory obligation under the 2002 Act to maintain the confidentiality of adoption records by prohibiting access to the information.

The particulars recorded in the Adopted Children Register include the child’s date and place of birth, their sex and new name, the names, occupations and address of the adoptive parents, the date of the order and the description of the court by which the order was made.

The Adopted Children Register also contains some registrations of overseas adoptions. Part 2 of the Adopted Children and Adoption Contact Register Regulations 2005 allows for the adoptive parent(s), who were habitually resident in England or Wales, to apply to include children who were born and adopted overseas. Adoptive parents whose children were born in England or Wales (and for whom the General Register Office holds a birth registration) but were adopted overseas may also make an application.

The 2002 Act provides for adults who were adopted before 30 December 2005 to apply to the Registrar General for a copy of their original birth certificate. People who were adopted prior to 12 November 1975 are required to attend birth records counselling in order to be given the information necessary to obtain a copy of their birth certificate. Counselling is optional, but recommended, for those adopted on or after 12 November 1975 but before 30 December 2005.

The 2002 Act makes further provision for an adopted adult to apply for access to their birth records from the adoption agency that dealt with the adoption, or if that agency no longer exists, from the agency which holds the records.

The 2002 Act introduced new rights for adopted adults (adopted before 30 December 2005) and their adult birth relatives to apply for an intermediary service. This means that an adopted adult can ask an intermediary agency to obtain information about their adoption and/or to trace an adult birth relative and establish if contact would be welcome. Similarly, an adult birth relative can ask an intermediary agency to trace and facilitate contact with an adopted adult. Intermediary services maybe provided by registered Adoption Support Agencies and by some registered adoption societies (also known as voluntary adoption agencies) and local authorities.

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  • Adoption Data

    For the UK, data by date of entry into the Adopted Children Register are only available from 1996. Adoptions by date of court order are not available for the UK. Data on adoptions in England and Wales are available from the link to marriage, divorce and adoption statistics (Go to the other websites and related reports section of this topic).

  • Adoption orders

    Data on adoptions are derived from the Adopted Children Register, and are based on adoption orders made in England and Wales as well as some overseas adoptions. Historically, the data have related to those cases notified by the courts to the Registrar General and entered on the Adopted Children Register in a given year. However, for the first time, the 1999 volume additionally included adoptions data by date of court order of adoption. Subsequent volumes also include data on this basis.

  • Children

    In adoption statistics, unless stated otherwise, children are defined as being under 18 years old.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Vital Statistics Outputs Branch

Email: vsob@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1329 444110

Vital Statistics Outputs Branch Office for National Statistics Segensworth Road Titchfield Fareham PO15 5RR

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