Statistical Information 1

Part One: What do the figures tell us about the children’s placements?

Who are these children?

There were 374 children who were under 5 years of age and in care in Northern Ireland on the 31st March 2000.  These children came into care for a number of reasons: Family history of alcohol abuse, 76%; family history of mental illness, 63%; family history of domestic violence, 76%; behavioural problems, 23%; developmental delay, 18%; in care due to neglect, 52%; in care due to abuse, 40%; from single parent households, 54%.

Where were the children living?

Figures show that the proportion of children staying in foster care fell between 2000 and 2004 (from 61 to 22%).  That was mostly explained by the increase in the proportion of children being adopted (0 to 38%).  There was also an increase in the percentage of children living with their birth parents (14 to 27%), with this increase slowing with time. 

In the year 2000: 0 children were adopted, 52 lived with birth parents, and 322 in foster care. In the year 2002: 68 children were adopted, 83 lived with birth parents, and 268 in foster care. In the year 2004: 153 children were adopted, 97 lived with birth parents, and 124 in foster care.

To be more specific, in 2004, 153 children lived with adoptive parents, 97 with birth parents, 83 in non-relative foster care, 22 in relative foster care and 14 on residence orders. 

The findings indicate that adoption has now become a common placement for young children in care in Northern Ireland.  This is quite a change from the situation ten years ago.  Adoption is now the most likely placement for very young children who are unable to live with their birth parents.  However, despite the increased use of adoption, a large number of children do remain in foster care (see chart 2).  The findings confirm that children are more likely to return home to their birth parents in the first few months of being in care.  The longer they remain in care the less likely they are to return home.  


Other useful sources of information:

Information on adoption in the UK:

British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF): Information and advice on adoption and fostering in Northern Ireland:

Statistics on child protection and Looked After Children in Northern Ireland:

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