The Department for Education has released statistics showing a two percent increase in the number of children in care, combined with a five percent decrease in the number of those children who are adopted.
Figures at 31 March 2011 show that 65,520 children were looked after, the highest number since 1987. The vast majority of children looked after in 2011, 74 per cent, were in a foster placement.
The number of looked after children adopted during year ending March 2011 fell to 3,050, five per cent fewer than in 2010. The number of children placed for adoption has also continued to fall, to 2,450, a reduction of two per cent on 2010 and a reduction of 10 per cent on 2007.
Only 60 children under the age of one were adopted in the year ending March 2011, compared to 70 children in 2010 and 150 in 2007. The average length of time children waited to be adopted was two years and seven months.
Responding to the statistics on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Barnordo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie called for decision making regarding adoptions to be sped up.
"An increase in care numbers, coupled with another consecutive drop in adoption rates and of children being placed for adoption is deeply worrying.
"Everyone involved in the care system needs to be braver and should 'act fast' to place children with a new permanent family when it is clear that even with support the child's birth family is not going to change and cannot cope.
"It is imperative that decision making is sped up at every stage of the adoption process, as we know that by the time a child is four years old they already have a far lesser chance of being adopted than a baby," Ms Carrie said.