||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (March 2013)|
An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose natural parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them. Natural parents, and sometimes natural grandparents, are legally responsible for supporting children, but in the absence of these or other relatives willing to care for the children, they become a ward of the state, and orphanages are one way of providing for their care, housing and education.
It is frequently used to describe institutions abroad, where it is a more accurate term, since the word orphan has a different definition in international adoption. Although many people presume that most children who live in orphanages are orphans, this is often not the case with four out of five children in orphanages having at least one living parent and most having some extended family. Most orphanages have been closed in Europe and North America. There remain a large number of state funded orphanages in the former Soviet Bloc but many of them are slowly being phased out in favour of direct support to vulnerable families and the development of foster care and adoption services where this is not possible.
Few large international charities continue to fund orphanages; however, they are still commonly founded by smaller charities and religious groups. Some orphanages, especially in developing countries, will prey on vulnerable families at risk of breakdown and actively recruit children to ensure continued funding. Orphanages in developing countries are rarely run by the state.
Other residential institutions for children can be called group homes, children's homes, refuges, rehabilitation centers, night shelters, or youth treatment centers.
Comparison to alternatives 
There is an increasing body of evidence that orphanages, especially large orphanages, are the worst possible care option for children. In large institutions all children, but particularly babies may not receive enough eye contact, physical contact, and stimulation to promote proper physical, social or cognitive development. In the worst cases, orphanages can be dangerous and unregulated places where children are subject to abuse and neglect.
There is only one significant study which disputes this. It was carried out by Duke University. Their researchers have shown that institutional care in America in the 20th century produced the same health, emotional, intellectual, mental, and physical outcomes as care by relatives, and better than care in the homes of strangers. One explanation for this is the prevalence of permanent temporary foster care. This is the name for a long string of short stays with different foster care families. Permanent temporary foster care is highly disruptive to the child and prevents the child from developing a sense of security or belonging. Placement in the home of a relative maintains and usually improves the child's connection to family members. Orphanages are an incredibly expensive option, up to six times more expensive than supporting a birth family and three times more expensive than foster care.
Whereas orphanages are intended to be reasonably permanent placements, group homes may be used for short-term placements. They may be residential treatment centers, and they frequently specialize in a particular population with psychiatric or behavioral problems, e.g., a group home for children and teens with autism, eating disorders, or substance abuse problems or child soldiers undergoing decommissioning.
Increasingly there is a move to deinstitutionalise child care systems. This involves closing down orphanages and other institutions for children and developing replacement services. The first option for a child is to see if they can be reunited with their biological or extended family. Often circumstances will have changed since the separation. If that is not possible, domestic adoption or long term fostering are considered. Older children may be supported to independence. Disabled children may need small family type homes where their needs can be catered for.
It is important to understand the reasons for child abandonment, then set up targeted alternative services to support vulnerable families at risk of separation such as mother and baby units and day care centres.
Early orphanages, called "orphanotrophia", were founded by the Orthodox Church in the 1st century amid various alternative means of orphan support. Jewish law, for instance, prescribed care for the widow and the orphan, and Athenian law supported all orphans of those killed in military service until the age of eighteen. Plato (Laws, 927) says: "Orphans should be placed under the care of public guardians. Men should have a fear of the loneliness of orphans and of the souls of their departed parents. A man should love the unfortunate orphan of whom he is guardian as if he were his own child. He should be as careful and as diligent in the management of the orphan's property as of his own or even more careful still." The care of orphans was referred to bishops and, during the Middle Ages, to monasteries. Many orphanages practiced some form of "binding-out" in which children, as soon as they were old enough, were given as apprentices to households. This would ensure their support and their learning an occupation.
Such practices are assumed to be quite rare in the modern Western world, thanks to improved social security such as the Social Security Act which allowed Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) to be passed. This marked a change in social attitudes. This lack of social security and failure to develop alternative ways to support vulnerable families is the key reason that orphanages remain in many other countries.
The deinstitutionalisation programme sped up in the 1950s, after a series of scandals involving the coercion of birth parents and abuse of orphans (notably at Georgia Tann's Tennessee Children's Home Society), the United States and other countries have moved to de-institutionalize the care of vulnerable children—that is, close down orphanages in favor of foster care and accelerated adoption. Moreover, as it is no longer common for birth parents in Western countries to give up their children, and as far fewer people die of diseases or violence while their children are still young, the need to operate large orphanages has decreased.
Major charities are increasingly focusing their efforts on the re-integration of orphans in order to keep them with their parents or extended family and communities. Orphanages are no longer common in the European community, and Romania in particular has struggled to reduce the visibility of its children's institutions to meet conditions of its entry into the European Union. In the United States, the first orphanage was in New Orleans—then French Territory—in 1727—by the Ursulines, a women's order of the Catholic Church that spun off the work of St. Vincent DePaul, whose fame for the care of orphans is unparalleled in history. The largest remaining orphanage is the Bethesda Orphanage, founded in 1740 by George Whitefield, following the model the Catholic Church had used for more than a thousand years.
Orphanages in popular culture 
In many works of fiction (notably Oliver Twist and Annie), the administrators of orphanages are depicted as cruel monsters. It is true that some orphanages are funded on a per child basis and there can be attempts made to encourage children from poor families to enter the orphanage which will provide food, clothing and an education but often lack the individual love required for full cognitive development.
Visitors to developing countries can be taken in by orphanage scams, which can include orphanages created for the day or orphanages set up as a front to get foreigners to pay school fees of orphanage directors' extended families. Alternatively the children whose upkeep is being funded by foreigners may be sent to work, not to school, the exact opposite of what the donor is expecting. The worst even sell children. In Cambodia some are bought from their parents for very little and passed on to westerners who pay a large fee to adopt them. This also happens in China. In Nepal, orphanages can be used as a way to remove a child from their parents before placing them for adoption overseas, which is equally lucrative to the owners who receive a number of official and unofficial payments and "donations". In other countries, such as Indonesia, orphanages are run as businesses, which will attract donations and make the owners rich; often the conditions orphans are kept in will deliberately be poor to attract more donations.
Sub-Saharan Africa 
Whilst some African orphanages are state-funded, the majority (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa) appear to be funded by donors, often from Western nations.
"For example, in the Jerusalem Association Children's Home (JACH), only 160 children remain of the 785 who were in JACH's three orphanages." / "Attitudes regarding the institutional care of children have shifted dramatically in recent years in Ethiopia. There appears to be general recognition by MOLSA and the NGOs with which Pact is working that such care is, at best, a last resort, and that serious problems arise with the social reintegration of children who grow up in institutions, and deinstitutionalization through family reunification and independent living are being emphasized."
A 2007 survey sponsored by OrphanAid Africa and carried out by the Department of Social Welfare came up with the figure of 4,800 children in institutional care in 148 orphanages. The government is currently attempting to phase out the use of orphanages in favor of foster care placements and adoption. At least fourteen homes have been closed since the passage of the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. The website www.ovcghana.org details these reforms.
A 1999 survey of 35,000 orphans found the following number in institutional care: 64 in registered institutions and 164 in unregistered institutions.
Out of 400,000 orphans, 5,000 are living in orphanages. The Government of Rwanda are working with Hope and Homes for Children to close the first institution and develop a model for community based childcare which can be used across the country and ultimately Africa
"Currently, there are 52 orphanages in Tanzania caring for about 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children." A world bank document on Tanzania showed it was six times more expensive to institutionalise a child there than to help the family become functional and support the child themselves.
In Nigeria, a rapid assessment of orphans and vulnerable children conducted in 2004 with UNICEF support revealed that there were about seven millions orphans in 2003 and that 800,000 more orphans were added during that same year. Out of this total number, about 1.8 million are orphaned by HIV/AIDS. With the spread of HIV/AIDS, the number of orphans is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years to 8.2 million by 2010.
South Africa 
Since 2000, South Africa does not licence orphanages any more but they continue to be set up unregulated and potentially more harmful. Theoretically the policy supports community based family homes but this is not always the case. One example is the homes operated by Thokomala.
A 1996 national survey of orphans revealed no evidence of orphanage care. The breakdown of care was as follows: 38% grandparents 55% extended family 1% older orphan 6% non-relative Recently a group of students started a fundraising website for an orphanage in Zambia.
There are 38 privately run children's charity homes, or orphanages, in the country, and the government operates eight of its own.
Statistics on the total number of children in orphanages nationwide are unavailable, but caregivers say their facilities were becoming unmanageably overwhelmed almost on a daily basis. Between 1994 and 1998, the number of orphans in Zimbabwe more than doubled from 200,000 to 543,000, and in five years, the number is expected to reach 900,000. (Unfortunately, there is no room for these children.)
- Children (0–17 years) orphaned by AIDS, 2005, estimate 31,000
- Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 340,000
- Orphan school attendance ratio, 1999–2005 71,000
- Children (0–17 years) orphaned by AIDS, 2005, estimate 25,000
- Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 560,000
- Orphan school attendance ratio, 1999–2005 74,000
South Asia 
There are at least 602 child care homes housing 15,095 children in Nepal "Orphanages have turned into a Nepalese industry there is rampant abuse and a great need for intervention." Many do not require adequate checks of their volunteers leaving children open to abuse.
"At Kabul's two main orphanages, Alauddin and Tahia Maskan, the number of children enrolled has increased almost 80 percent since last January[when?], from 700 to over 1,200 children. Almost half of these come from families who have at least one parent, but who can't support their children." The non-governmental organisation Mahboba's promise assists orphans in contemporary Afghanistan.
"There are no statistics regarding the actual number of children in welfare institutions in Bangladesh. The Department of Social Services, under the Ministry of Social Welfare, has a major programme named Child Welfare and Child Development in order to provide access to food, shelter, basic education, health services and other basic opportunities for hapless children." (The following numbers mention capacity only, not actual numbers of orphans at present.)
9,500 – State institutions 250 – babies in three available "baby homes" 400 – Destitute Children's Rehabilitation Centre 100 – Vocational Training Centre for Orphans and Destitute Children 1,400 -Sixty-five Welfare and Rehabilitation Programmes for Children with Disability
The private welfare institutions are mostly known as orphanages and madrassahs. The authorities of most of these orphanages put more emphasis on religion and religious studies. One example follows: 400 – Approximately – Nawab Sir Salimullah Muslim Orphanage.
Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2010, estimate 51.
India has a very large number of orphans as well as destitute child population. Orphanages operated by the state are generally known as a juvenile homes. In addition there is a vast number of privately run orphanages running into thousands spread across the country. These area run by various trusts, religious groups,individual citizens, citizens groups, NGO's etc. While some of these places endeavour to place the children for adoption a vast majority just care and educate them till they are of legal majority age and help place them back on their feet. Some scandals Prominent organizations in this field include BOYS TOWN, SOS children's villages etc. Some scandals have been there every now and then especially with regard to Adoption. Also since government rules restrict funds unless a certain number of inmates are there, some orphanages make sure the resident numbers remain high at the cost of adoption.
East Asia 
The number of orphanages and orphans drastically dropped from 15 institutions and 2,216 persons in 1971 to 9 institutions and 638 persons by the end of 2001.
South Korea 
"There are now 17,000 children in public orphanages throughout the country and untold numbers at private institutions."
There are numerous NGOs focusing their efforts on assisting Cambodia's orphans: one group, "World Orphans" constructed 47 orphanages housing over 1500 children in a three-year period. The total number of orphans is much higher, but unknown: "There are no accurate figures available on how many orphans there are in Cambodia." One charity named "CHOICE Cambodia" is run by expats based in the capital city of Phnom Penh; it helps support extremely poor and homeless people and helps families stay together rather than have some of their children put into orphanages where they might get exploited.
"Currently there are 50,000 children in Chinese orphanages, while the number of abandoned children shows no sign of slowing." "Official figures show that fewer than 20,000 of China's orphans are now in any form of institutional care." Chinese official records fail to account for most of the country's abandoned infants and children, only a small proportion of whom are in any form of acknowledged state care. The most recent figure provided seems implausibly low for a country with a total population of 1.2 billion. Even if it were accurate, however, the whereabouts of the great majority of China's orphans would still be a complete mystery, leaving crucial questions about the country's child welfare system unanswered and suggesting that the real scope of the catastrophe that has befallen China's unwanted children may be far larger than the evidence in this report documents.
"It is stated that there are 20,000 orphaned children in Laos. There are only three orphanages in the whole country providing places for a total of 1,000 of these children." No Title. By Anneli Dahlbom One of the largest orphanages in Laos is in the town of Phonsavan. It is an S.O.S. orphanage and there are over 120 orphans living in the facility.
Middle East and North Africa 
"The [Mosques of Charity] orphanage houses about 120 children in Giza, Menoufiya and Qalyubiya." "We [Dar Al-Iwaa] provide free education and accommodation for over 200 girls and boys." "Dar Al-Mu'assassa Al-Iwaa'iya (Shelter Association), a government association affiliated with the Ministry of Social Affairs, was established in 1992. It houses about 44 children." There are also 192 children at The Awlady, 30 at Sayeda Zeinab orphanage, and 300 at My Children Orphanage.
Note: There are about 185 orphanages in Egypt. The above information was taken from the following articles: "Other families" by Amany Abdel-Moneim. Al-Ahram Weekly (5/1999). "Ramadan brings charity to Egypt's orphans". Shanghai Star (13 December 2001). "A Child by Any Other Name" by Réhab El-Bakry. Egypt Today (11/2001).
Orphanage Project in Egypt—www.littlestlamb.org
There is still at least one orphanage in Sudan although efforts have been made to close it
The "Royal Charity Organization" is a Bahraini governmental charity organization founded in 2001 by King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah to sponsor all helpless Bahraini orphans and widows. Since then almost 7,000 Bahraini families are granted monthly payments, annual school bags, and a number of university scholarships. Graduation ceremonies, various social and educational activities, and occasional contests are held each year by the organization for the benefit of orphans and widows sponsored by the organization.
UNICEF maintains the same number at present. "While the number of state homes for orphans in the whole of Iraq was 25 in 1990 (serving 1,190 children); both the number of homes and the number of beneficiaries has declined. The quality of services has also declined."
A 1999 study by UNICEF "recommended the rebuilding of national capacity for the rehabilitation of orphans." The new project "will benefit all the 1,190 children placed in orphanages."
Palestinian Territory 
"In 1999, the number of children living in orphanages witnessed a considerable drop as compared to 1998. The number dropped from 1,980 to 1,714 orphans. This is due to the policy of child re-integration in their household adopted by the Ministry of Social Affairs."
Former Soviet Union 
In the post-Soviet countries, orphanages are better known as the Children Homes (Russian: Детскиe домa). After reaching school age, all children enroll into internat-schools (Russian: Школа-интернат) (see Boarding school).
Over 700,000 orphans live in Russia, increasing at the rate of 113,000 per year. UNICEF estimates that 95% of these children are social orphans, meaning that they have at least one living parent who has given them up to the state. In 2011 Russian authorities registered 88,522 children who became orphans that year (down from 114,715 in 2009).
There are many web pages for Russian orphanages, but very few of them are in English, such as St Nicholas Orphanage in Siberia or the Alapaevsk orphanage in the Urals. "Of a total of more than 600,000 children classified as being 'without parental care' (most of them live with other relatives and fosters), as many as one-third reside in institutions."
"Many children are abandoned due to extreme poverty and harsh living conditions. Family members or neighbors may raise some of these children but the majority live in crowded orphanages until the age of fifteen when they are sent into the community to make a living for themselves."
Approximate total – 1,773 (1993 statistics for "all types of orphanages")
Partial information: 85 – Ivanovka Orphanage
"No one can be sure how many lone children are there in the republic. About 9,000 are in internats and in orphanages."
- thousands – Zaporozhzhya region
- 150 – Kiev State Baby Orphanage
- 30 – Beregena Orphanage
- 120 – Dom Invalid Orphanage
Partial Information: 80 – Takhtakupar Orphanage
No verifiable information for the number of children actually in orphanages. The number of orphaned and abandoned children is approximately 500,000.
Orphans, children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 25,000
North America & Caribbean 
Haitians and expatriate childcare professionals are careful to make it clear that Haitian orphanages and children's homes are not orphanages in the North American sense, but instead shelters for vulnerable children, often housing children whose parent(s) are poor as well as those who are abandoned, neglected or abused by family guardians. Neither the number of children or the number of institutions is officially known, but Chambre de L'Enfance Necessiteusse Haitienne (CENH) indicated that it has received requests for assistance from nearly 200 orphanages from around the country for more than 200,000 children. Although not all are orphans, many are vulnerable or originate in vulnerable families that "hoped to increase their children's opportunities by sending them to orphanages." Catholic Relief Services provides assistance to 120 orphanages with 9,000 children in the West, South, Southeast and Grand Anse, but these include only orphanages that meet their criteria. They estimate receiving ten requests per week for assistance from additional orphanages and children's homes, but some of these are repeat requests."
In 2007, UNICEF estimated there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti, which has a population of just over 9 million, according to the CIA World Factbook. However, since the January 2010 earthquake, the number of orphans has skyrocketed, and the living conditions for orphans have seriously deteriorated. Official numbers are hard to find due to the general state of chaos in the country.
"...at least 10,000 Mexican children live in orphanages and more live in unregistered charity homes"
- Mexican Orphanages
- Mazatlan Mexico Orphanage
- Casa Hogar Jeruel: Orphanage in Chihuahua City, Mexico
United States 
Following World War II, most orphanages in the U.S. began closing. Over the past few decades, orphanages in the U.S. have been replaced with smaller institutions that try to provide a group home or boarding school environment. Most children who would have been in orphanages are in these Residential Treatment Centers (RTC), Group Homes or with foster families. Adopting from RTCs, Group Homes and foster families require working with an adoption agency.
Central and South America 
"...currently there are about 20,000 children in orphanages."
Casa Hoger Lamedas Pampa, in Huanaco
Significant charities that help orphans 
Prior to the establishment of state care for orphans in First World countries, many private charities existed to take care of destitute orphans, over time other charities have found other ways to care for children.
- Hope and Homes for Children are working with Governments in many countries to deinstitutionalise their child care systems.
- SOS Children's Villages is the world's largest non-governmental, non-denominational child welfare organization that provides loving family homes for orphaned and abandoned children.
- Dr Barnardo's Homes are now simply Barnardo's after closing their last orphanage in 1989.
- Joint Council on International Children's Services is a nonprofit child advocacy organization based in Alexandria, Virginia. It is the largest association of international adoption agencies in America, and in addition to working in 51 different countries, advocates for ethical practices in American adoption agencies
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Orphanages|
- Boys Town (organization)
- Community-based care
- Hope and Homes for Children
- Residential education
- Settlement movement
- Whole Child International
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