This bulletin presents annual statistics on adoptions which took place following court orders in England and Wales in 2011. Figures on adoption orders apply to adoptions by relatives and step-parents as well as adoptions from care. Foreign adoptions are also included if they meet the legislative requirements and where an application has been made for registration.
Adoption statistics are analysed by sex, age and marital status of the biological parents.
This is the first time that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published annual 2011 adoption statistics for England and Wales.
There were 4,734 adoptions entered into the Adopted Children Register (ACR) following court orders made in 2011. This was a 6 per cent increase compared with 2010, when there were 4,481 adoptions. There have been small fluctuations in the number of adoptions over the last decade. Adoptions also increased in Scotland between 2010 and 2011 by 6 per cent, from 466 in 2010 to 494 in 2011 (General Register Office for Scotland, 2012). There are currently no 2011 data available for adoptions in Northern Ireland.
The largest fall in adoptions in England and Wales since 1998 occurred between 2005 and 2006. Special Guardianships were introduced on 30 December 2005 when the Adoption and Children Act 2002 was fully implemented (see background note 4), and this may have had an impact. Special Guardianship was introduced as a new permanence option for children, providing a legally secure foundation for building a permanent relationship between the child and their special guardian, while preserving the legal link between the child and their birth family.
In 2011, 49 per cent of children adopted were male (compared with 51 in 2010) and 51 per cent were female (compared with 49 in 2010). Since 1998, the number of male and female adoptions has been fairly even.
The proportion of children aged one to four who were adopted has steadily increased since 1998. In 2011, 62 per cent of children adopted were aged one to four, compared with 34 per cent in 1998. In contrast to the increasing proportion of adoptions of children aged one to four, the proportions of adoptions to other age groups has decreased. The percentage of adoptions of children aged under one decreased from 5 per cent in 1998 to 2 per cent in 2011.
For children aged 5–9, the proportion has decreased from 36 per cent in 1998 to 23 per cent in 2011. For children aged 10–14, the percentage of adoptions has more than halved from 21 per cent in 1998 to 10 per cent in 2011. The percentage of adopted children aged 15–17 has decreased to 2 per cent, from 5 per cent in 1998.
In 2011, 82 per cent of children adopted were born outside marriage compared with 68 per cent in 1998. The proportion of adopted children born outside marriage has increased steadily since 1998 and is much higher than the proportion of live births outside marriage, suggesting that children born outside marriage are more likely to be adopted than those born within marriage.
By way of illustration, in 2011 nearly half of all babies in England and Wales were born outside marriage/civil partnership (47 per cent), compared with 38 per cent in 1998. This continues the long-term rise in the percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership (ONS, 2012).
The ACR does not hold any information on the marital status of the adopting parents, so it is not possible to measure the impact of the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 on 30 December 2005 which allowed civil partners, same-sex couples and unmarried couples to adopt for the first time.
More data on adoptions in England and Wales are available on the ONS website.
A Quality and Methodology Information document for adoption statistics is available on the ONS website.
Statistics on looked after children in England as well as intercountry adoptions are available from the Department for Education. Statistics on looked after children in Wales are available from the Welsh Government. For the definition of looked after children, see background note 3.
Further information on Special Guardianship is available on the Department for Education website.
Adoption statistics in Northern Ireland are provided by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency while statistics on the adoption of looked after children are available from the Department of Health, Social Surveys and Public Safety.
A user feedback survey for the adoptions tables took place in July 2011. The results and responses to this survey will be published in August 2012.
General Register Office for Scotland (GRO) (2012) 2011 Births, Deaths and Other Vital Events - Preliminary Annual Figures.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2012) Births and Deaths in England and Wales (provisional), 2011.
The Department for Education has the policy lead for adoptions in England while the Welsh Government has the policy lead in Wales.
In April 2012 the Department for Education published an Action Plan for Adoptions: Tackling Delay to speed up the adoption system in England. Similarly, in March 2102 the Welsh Government published proposals within a new Social Services Bill to establish a national body for adoption in Wales to transform the adoption service.
Both the Department for Education and the Welsh Government publish data on adoption outcomes for children looked after by local authorities. However, this does not cover the adoption of children outside the care system (for example step-parents adopting the child of their partner) which are included within ONS statistics.
Organisations in the voluntary sector (for example, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering) use ONS’s adoption statistics for comparison purposes and also to support campaigns. The general public also has an interest in adoption statistics, especially those who are or have been involved in the adoption process.
Data on adoptions are derived from the Adopted Children Register and are based on adoption orders made in England and Wales. The data here relate to those cases notified by the courts to the Registrar General and entered onto the Adopted Children Register in a given year. Adoption figures are produced on two definitions: date of entry into the Adopted Children Register and date of Court Order. The adoption figures in this bulletin are based on the date of court order. The court order data are seen as preferable as there may be a time lag between the date of the court order and the subsequent entry into the Register.
Children are defined as under 18 years of age.
The term 'looked after' was introduced by the Children Act 1989 and refers to children who are subject to care orders and those who are voluntarily accommodated. Children become looked after when their birth parents are unable to provide ongoing care in either a temporary or permanent capacity. Children can either be looked after as a result of voluntary agreement by their parents or as the result of a care order.
On 30 December 2005 the Adoption and Children Act 2002 was fully implemented. It replaced the Adoption Act 1976 and modernised the legal framework for adoption in England and Wales. The Act provides for an adoption order to be made in favour of single people, married couples and, for the first time, civil partners, same-sex couples and unmarried couples. The Act also introduced Special Guardianship to provide permanence for children who cannot return to their birth families, but for whom adoption is not the most suitable option.
Special extracts and tabulations of adoption data for England and Wales are available to order for a charge (subject to legal frameworks, disclosure control, resources and agreements of costs, where appropriate). Such enquiries should be made to:
Vital Statistics Outputs Branch
Health and Life Events Division
Office for National Statistics
Tel: +44 (0)1329 444 110
The ONS charging policy is available on the ONS website.
We would welcome feedback on the content, format and relevance of this release. The Health and Life Events user engagement strategy is available to download from the ONS website. Please send feedback to the postal or email address above.
Next publication date: July/August 2013.
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:
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