This article is about the institution. For other uses, see Orphanage (disambiguation).
Plaque where once stood the "Ruota" ("wheel") the place to abandon children at the side of the Chiesa della Pietà, the church of an orphanage in Venice. The plaque cites on a Papal bull by Paul III dated November 12, 1548, threatens "ex-communication and maledictions" for all those who, having the means to rear a child, choose to abandon him/her instead: such excommunication may not be cancelled until the culprit refunds all freights incurred to raise the baby.
Former Jewish orphanage in Berlin-Pankow

An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans—children whose biological parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them. Biological parents, and sometimes biological grandparents, are legally responsible for supporting children, but in the absence of these, no named godparent, 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.[1] Most children who live in orphanages are not orphans; four out of five children in orphanages having at least one living parent and most having some extended family.[2] 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 they 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.[3] Especially in developing countries, orphanages may 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.[3][4]

Other residential institutions for children can be called group homes, children's homes, refuges, rehabilitation centers, night shelters, or youth treatment centers.


Caring for orphans, by Dutch artist Jan de Bray, 1663

The Romans formed their first orphanages around 400 AD. Jewish law 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."[5] The care of orphans was referred to bishops and, during the Middle Ages, to monasteries. As soon as they were old enough, children were often given as apprentices to households to ensure their support and to learn an occupation.

In medieval Europe, care for orphans tended to reside with the Church. The Elizabethan Poor Laws were enacted at the time of the Reformation, and placed public responsibility on individual parishes to care for the indigent poor.

Foundling Hospitals

The Foundling Hospital. The building has been demolished.

The growth of sentimental philanthropy in the 18th century, led to the establishment of the first charitable institutions catering for the orphan. The Foundling Hospital was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram in London, England, as a children's home for the "education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children." The first children were admitted into a temporary house located in Hatton Garden. At first, no questions were asked about child or parent, but a distinguishing token was put on each child by the parent.[6]

On reception, children were sent to wet nurses in the countryside, where they stayed until they were about four or five years old. At sixteen, girls were generally apprenticed as servants for four years; at fourteen, boys were apprenticed into variety of occupations, typically for seven years. There was a small benevolent fund for adults.

In 1756, the House of Commons resolved that all children offered should be received, that local receiving places should be appointed all over the country, and that the funds should be publicly guaranteed. A basket was accordingly hung outside the hospital; the maximum age for admission was raised from two months to twelve, and a flood of children poured in from country workhouses. Parliament soon came to the conclusion that the indiscriminate admission should be discontinued. The hospital adopted a system of receiving children only with considerable sums. This practice was finally stopped in 1801; and it henceforth became a fundamental rule that no money was to be received.[7]

19th century

A group of orphans at Crumpsall Workhouse in the 19th century.

By the early nineteenth century, the problem of abandoned children in urban areas, especially London, began to reach alarming proportions. The workhouse system, instituted in 1834, although often brutal, was an attempt at the time to house orphans as well as other vulnerable people in society who could not support themselves in exchange for work. Conditions, especially for the women and children, were so bad as to cause an outcry among the social reform-minded middle-class; some of Charles Dickens' most famous novels, including Oliver Twist, highlighted the plight of the vulnerable and the often abusive conditions that were prevalent in the London orphanages.

Clamour for change led to the birth of the orphanage movement. The movement really took off in the mid-19th century although orphanages such as the Orphan Working Home in 1758 and the Bristol Asylum for Poor Orphan Girls in 1795, had been set up earlier. Private orphanages were founded by private benefactors; these often received royal patronage and government oversight.[8] Ragged schools, founded by John Pounds and the Lord Shaftesbury were also set up to provide pauper children with basic education. Orphanages were also set up in the United States from the early 19th century, although under the influence of Charles Loring Brace, foster care became a popular alternative from the mid-19th century.[9] The Social Security Act of 1935 improved social security, by authorising Aid to Dependent Children (ADC).

Thomas John Barnardo, the founder of the Barnardos Home for orphaned children.

A very influential philanthropist of the era was Thomas John Barnardo, the founder of the charity Barnardos. Becoming aware of the great numbers of homeless and destitute children adrift in the cities of England and encouraged by the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury and the 1st Earl Cairns, he opened the first of the "Dr Barnardo’s Homes" in 1870. By his death in 1905, he had established 112 district homes, which searched for and received waifs and strays, to feed, clothe and educate them.[10] The system under which the institution was carried on is broadly as follows: the infants and younger girls and boys were chiefly "boarded out" in rural districts; girls above fourteen years of age were sent to the industrial training homes, to be taught useful domestic occupations; boys above seventeen years of age were first tested in labour homes and then placed in employment at home, sent to sea, or emigrated; boys of between thirteen and seventeen years of age were trained for the various trades for which they might be mentally or physically fitted.[10]


The Deinstitutionalisation of orphanages and childrens homes programme began 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). Many countries accepted the need 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.

It is important to understand the reasons for child abandonment, then set up targeted alternative services to support vulnerable families at risk of separation[11] such as mother and baby units and day care centres.[12]

Comparison to alternatives

There is an increasing body of evidence that orphanages, especially large orphanages, are the worst possible care option for children.[13][14] 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.[15][16] In the worst cases, orphanages can be dangerous and unregulated places where children are subject to abuse and neglect.[13][17][18]

There is only one significant study which disputes this. It was carried out by Duke University. Their researchers concluded 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.[19] 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.[19] 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.[19][20]

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.


Most of the children living in institutions around the world have a surviving parent or close relative, and they most commonly entered orphanages because of poverty.[21] It is speculated that, flush with money, orphanages are increasing and push for children to join even though demographic data show that even the poorest extended families usually take in children whose parents have died.[21] Experts and child advocates maintain that orphanages are expensive and often harm children's development by separating them from their families and that it would be more effective and cheaper to aid close relatives who want to take in the orphans.[21]


Visitors to developing countries can be taken in by orphanage scams, which can include orphanages created for the day[22] or orphanages set up as a front to get foreigners to pay school fees of orphanage directors' extended families.[23] 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.[24] The worst even sell children.[25][26][27] In Cambodia some are bought from their parents for very little and passed on to westerners who pay a large fee to adopt them.[28] This also happens in China.[29] 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".[30][31] 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.[32]



The orphanages and institutions remaining in Europe tend to be in Eastern Europe and are generally state-funded.


There are approximately 10 small orphanages in Albania; each one having only 12-40 children residing there.[33]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

SOS Children's Villages giving support to 240 orphaned children.[34]


The Bulgarian government has shown interest in strengthening children's rights.

In 2010, Bulgaria adopted a national strategic plan for the period 2010–2025 to improve the living standards of the country's children. Bulgaria is working hard to get all institutions closed within the next few years and find alternative ways to take care of the children.

Support is sporadically given to poor families and work during daytime; correspondingly, different kinds of day centers have started up, though the quality of care in these centers is poorly measured and difficult to monitor. A smaller number of children have also been able to be relocated into foster families".[35][36]

There are 7000[36] children living in Bulgarian orphanages wrongly classified as orphaned. Only 10 percent of these are orphans, with the rest of the children placed in orphanages for temporary periods when the family is in crisis.[37]


As of 2009, there are 35 orphanages, which houses approximately 1300 orphaned children.[38][39]


A comprehensive national strategy for strengthening the rights of children was adopted by Parliament in 2007 and will run until 2032.

Child flow to orphanages has been stopped and children are now protected by social services. Violation of children's rights leads to litigation.[40]


In Lithuania there are 105 institutions. 41 percent of the institutions each have more than 60 children. Lithuania has the highest number of orphaned children in Northern Europe.[41][42]


Children's rights enjoys a relatively strong protection in Poland. Orphaned children are now protected by social services.

Social Workers' opportunities have increased by establishing more foster homes and aggressive family members can now be forced away from home, instead of re-placing the child/children.[43]


More than 8800 children are being raised in state institutions, but only three percent of them are orphans.[44]


The Romanian child welfare system is in the process of being revised and has reduced the flow of infants into orphanages.[45]

According to Baroness Emma Nicholson, in some counties Romania now has "a completely new, world class, state of the art, child health development policy." Dickensian orphanages remain in Romania,[46] but by 2020 Romanian institutions are to be replaced by family care services, as children in need will be protected by social services.[47]

As of 2011, there are 10,833 orphaned children in 256 large institutions in Romania.[48]

# year Total children in care of the state. Number of children in orphanages
1. 1990 47,405[49]
2. 1994 52,986[49]
3. 1997 51,468 39,569
4. 1998 55,641 38,597
5. 1999 57,087 33,356
6. 2000 87,753 57,181[50]
7. 2001 78,000 47,171
8. 2002 87,867 49,965[51]
9. 2003 86,379 43,092[52]
10. 2004 84,445 37,660[53]
11. 2005 83,059 32,821[54]
12. 2006 78,766 28,786
13. 2007 73,793 26,599[55]
14. 2008 71,047 24,979[56]
15. 2009 68,858 24,227[57]
16. 2010 62,000 19,000[48][58]
17. 2011 50,000 10,833[47]


The large jump in children protected by the state in 2000 over 1999 is because many children's hospital and residential schools for small children were re-designated as orphanages in the year 2000.


There are many state orphanages "where several thousand children are kept and which are still part of an outdated child care system". The conditions for them are bad because the government does not pay enough attention in improving the living standards for disabled children in Serbia's orphanages and medical institutions.[60]


The Committee made recommendations, such as proposals for the adoption of a new "national 14" action plan for children for at least the next five years, and the creation of an independent institution for the protection of child rights.[61]


In Sweden there are 5,000 children in the care of the state. None of them are currently living in an orphanage, because there is a social service law which requires that the children reside in a family home.

United Kingdom

During the Victorian Era, child abandonment was rampant, and orphanages were set up to reduce infant mortality. Such places were often so full of children that "killing nurses" often administered Godfrey's Cordial, a special concoction of opium and treacle, to soothe baby colic.[62]

Orphaned children were placed in either prisons or the poorhouse/workhouse, as there were so few places in orphanages, or else they were left to fend for themselves on the street. Such places as were available could only be obtained by procuring votes for admission, placing them out of reach of poor families.

Known orphanages are:

Founded in Name Location Founder
1741 Foundling Hospital London Thomas Coram
1795 Bristol Asylum for Poor Orphan Girls (Blue Maids' Orphanage) nr Stokes Croft turnpike, Bristol
1800 St Elizabeth's Orphanage of Mercy Eastcombe, Glos
1813 London Asylum for Orphans
London Orphan Asylum
Hackney, London
Watford 1871
Cobham 1945
Rev Andrew Reed
1822 Female Orphan Asylum Brighton Francois de Rosaz
1827 Infant Orphan Asylum
Royal Infant Orphanage
Royal Wanstead School
Royal Wanstead Children's Foundation
Wanstead Rev Andrew Reed
1829 Sailor Orphan Girls School London
1831 Jews' Orphan Asylum
Norwood Jewish Orphanage 1928
Norwood Home for Jewish Children 1956
Goodmans Fields, Whitechapel, London 1831
West Norwood 1866
1836 Ashley Down orphanage Bristol George Müller
1844 Asylum for Fatherless Children
Reedham Orphanage
Stoke Newington
Stamford Hill
Purley 1846
Rev Andrew Reed
1854 Wolverhampton Orphan Asylum Goldthorn Hill, Wolverhampton John Lees
1856 Wiltshire Reformatory Warminster
1860 Major Street Ragged Schools Liverpool Canon Thomas Major Lester
1861 St. Philip Neri's orphanage for boys Birmingham Oratorians
1861 Adult Orphan Institution St Andrew's Place, Regent's Park, London
1861 British Orphan Asylum Clapham, London
1861 Female Orphan Asylum Westminster Road, London
1861 Female Orphan Home Charlotte Row, St Peter Walworth, London
1861 Merchant Seamen's Orphan Asylum Bromley St Leonard, Bow, London
1861 Orphan Working School Haverstock Hill, Kentish Town, London
1861 Orphanage Eagle House, Hammersmith, London
1861 The Orphanage Asylum Christchurch, Marylebone, London
1861 The Sailors' Orphan Girls' School & Home Hampstead, London
1861 Sunderland Orphan Asylum Sunderland
1862 Swansea Orphan Home for Girls Swansea
1863 British Seaman’s Orphan Boys' Home
British Seaman's Boys' Home
Brixham William Gibbs
1865 The Boys' Home Regent's Park London
1866 Dr Barnardo's various Dr Thomas Barnardo
1866 National Industrial Home for Crippled Boys London
1867 Peckham Home for Little Girls London Maria Rye
1868 The Boys' Refuge Bisley
1868 Royal Albert Orphanage Worcester
1868 Worcester Orphan Asylum Worcester
1868 St Francis' Boy's Home Shefford, Bedfordshire
1869 Ely Deaconesses Orphanage Bedford Rev Thomas Bowman Stephenson
1869 Orphanage and Almshouses Erdington Josiah Mason
1869 The Neglected Children of Exeter Exeter
1869 Alexandra Orphanage for Infants Hornsey Rise, London
1869 Stockwell Orphanage London Charles Spurgeon
1869 New Orphan Asylum Upper Henwick, Worcs
1869 Wesleyan Methodist National Children's Homes
National Children's Homes
NCH Action for Children
Action for Children
various Rev Thomas Bowman Stephenson
1870 Fegans Homes London James William Condell Fegan
1870 Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuge Manchester
1870 18 Stepney Causeway
The William Baker Memorial Technical School for Boys 1922
Goldings estate, Hertford 1922
Dr Barnardo
1871 Wigmore West Bromwich and Walsall WJ Gilpin
1872 Middlemore Home Edgbaston Dr John T. Middlemore
1872 St Theresa Roman Catholic Orphanage for Girls Plymouth Sisters of Charity
1873 The Orphan Homes Ryelands Road, Leominster Henry S. Newman[63][64]
1874 Cottage Homes for Children West Derby Mrs Nassau Senior
1875 Aberlour Orphanage Aberlour, Scotland Rev Charles Jupp
1877 All Saints Boys' Orphanage Lewisham, London
1880 Birmingham Working Boy's Home (for boys over the age of 13) Birmingham Major Alfred V. Fordyce
1881 The Waifs and Strays' Society[65]
Church of England Incorporated Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays 1893
Church of England Children's Society 1946
The Children's Society 1982
East Dulwich, London Edward de Montjoie Rudolf
1881 Catholic Childrens Protection Society Liverpool James Nugent & Bishop Bernard O'Reilly
1881 Dorset County Boys Home Milborne St Andrew
1881 Brixton Orphanage Brixton Road, Lambeth, London
1881 Orphanage Infirmary West Square, London Road, Southwark, London
1881 Orphans' Home South Street. London Road, Southwark, London
1882 St Michael's Home for Friendless Girls Salisbury
1890 St Saviour's Home Shrewsbury
1890 Orphanage of Pity Warminster
1890 Wolverhampton Union Cottage homes Wolverhampton
1892 Calthorpe Home For Girls Handsworth, Birmingham The Waifs and Strays' Society[66]
1899 Northern Police Orphanage
St George's House, Harrogate
Harrogate Miss Catherine Gurney
1899 Inglewood Children's Home Otley, Leeds
1918 Painswick Orphanage Painswick
unknown Clio Boys' Home Liverpool
unknown St Philip's Orphanage, (RC Institution for Poor Orphan Children) Brompton, Kensington

Sub-Saharan Africa

AIDS orphans in Malawi

The majority of African orphanages (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa) appear to be funded by donors, often from Western nations, rather than by domestic governments.


"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."[67]


A 2007 survey sponsored by OAfrica (previously 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.[68] The government is currently attempting to phase out the use of orphanages in favor of foster care placements and adoption. At least eighty-eight[69] 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 36,000 orphans found the following number in institutional care: 64 in registered institutions and 164 in unregistered institutions.[70]


There are about 101 orphanages in Malawi. There is a UNICEF/Government driven program on de-institutionalisation, but few orphanages are yet involved in the program.


Out of 400,000 orphans, 5,000 are living in orphanages.[71] 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[72]


"Currently, there are 52 orphanages in Tanzania caring for about 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children."[73] 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.[74]

South Africa

Since 2000, South Africa does not license 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.[75]


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.[70][76]


There are 39 privately run children's charity homes, or orphanages, in the country, and the government operates eight of its own. Privately run Orphanages can accommodate an average of 2000 children, though some are very small and located in very remote areas, hence can take in less than 150 children. 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.)[77]


In Togo, there were an estimated 280,000 orphans under 18 years of age in 2005, 88,000 of them orphaned by AIDS.[78][78] Ninety-six thousand orphans in Togo attend school.[78]

Sierra Leone



South Asia


There are at least 602 child care homes housing 15,095 children in Nepal[82] "Orphanages have turned into a Nepalese industry there is rampant abuse and a great need for intervention."[27][83] Many do not require adequate checks of their volunteers, leaving children open to abuse.[82]


PRT donates clothing, blankets to Khowst orphanage in Afghanistan

"At Kabul's two main orphanages, Alauddin and Tahia Maskan, the number of children enrolled has increased almost 80 percent since last January, 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."[84] The non-governmental organisation Mahboba's promise assists orphans in contemporary Afghanistan.[85] Nowadays the number of orphanages had changed. There are approximately 19 orphanages only in Kabul.[86]


"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.[87]


Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2010, estimate 51.[88]


Tirurangadi Orphanage, India.

India has a very large number of orphans as well as destitute child population. Orphanages operated by the state are generally known as 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. Prominent organizations in this field include BOYS TOWN, SOS children's villages etc.

There have been scandals especially with regard to adoption. Since government rules restrict funds unless there are a certain number of residents, some orphanages make sure the resident numbers remain high at the cost of adoption.

East and Southeast 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.


There are still a substantial number of NGO's and informal Orphanages in Thailand, particularly in Northern Thailand near the borders of Laos and Myanmar, e.g. around Chiang Rai. Very few of the children in these establishments are orphans, most have living parents. They attract funding from well meaning tourists. Often protecting the children from trafficking/abuse is cited but the names and photographs of the children are published in marketing material to attract more funding.[89] The reality is that the safest environment for these children is almost always with their parents or in their villages with familial connections where strangers are rarely seen and immediately recognised. A very few of these orphanages, go so far as to abduct or forcibly remove children from their homes, often across the border in Myanmar. The parents in local hill tribes may be encouraged to "buy a place" in the orphanage for vast sums, being told their child will have a better future.[90] Some childrens homes claim to always try to repatriate children with their families, but the local managers & director of the homes know of no such procedures or processes.[91]

South Korea

"There are now 17,000 children in public orphanages throughout the country and untold numbers at private institutions."[92]


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.[93] 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 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."[94] 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.[94] The most recent figure provided seems implausibly low for a country with a total population of 1.2 billion.[94] 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.[95]

Middle East and North Africa

Orphan girls at the Aleppo Armenian orphanage, 1923


"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[96]


The "Royal Charity Organization"[97] 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

The Moscow Orphanage (founded in 1763, constructed in the 1770s)

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.[98][99][100][101] In 2011 Russian authorities registered 88,522 children who became orphans that year (down from 114,715 in 2009).[102]

There are few web pages for Russian orphanages in English, such as St Nicholas Orphanage[103] 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."[104]

In 2011, there were 1344 institutions for orphans in Russia[105] including 1094 orphanages ("Children homes")[106] and 207 special ("corrective") orphanages for children with serious health issues.[107]


"Many children are abandoned due to extreme poverty and harsh living conditions. Some may be raised by family members or neighbors 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."[108]


Approximate total – 1,773 (1993 statistics for "all types of orphanages")


Belovodski Preschool Orphanage in Karabalta, Kyrgyzstan

Partial information: 85 – Ivanovka Orphanage[109]


"No one can be sure how many lone children are there in the republic. About 9,000 are in internats and in orphanages."[110]



Other information:


Partial Information: 80 – Takhtakupar Orphanage



Orphanages in Australia mostly closed after World War II and up to the 1970s. Children are mainly put under foster care. Notable former orphanages include the Melbourne Orphanage and the St. John's Orphanage in Goulburn, New South Wales.[115]


No verifiable information for the number of children actually in orphanages. The number of orphaned and abandoned children is approximately 500,000.[116]


Orphans, children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 25,000[117]

North America and 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 Ouest, Sud, Sud-Est 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."[118]

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.[119]


"...at least 10,000 Mexican children live in orphanages and more live in unregistered charity homes"

United States

St. Elizabeth's orphanage in New Orleans, 1940

Traditional orphanages are no longer a part of the American adoption process.[123][124] Following World War II, most orphanages in the U.S. began closing or converting to boarding schools or group homes. 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, or foster families does not require working with an adoption agency, and in many areas, fostering to adopt is highly encouraged.[1][125]

Central and South America

In a Colombian orphanage, a nurse takes care of three children.


"...currently there are about 20,000 children in orphanages."[126]


Casa Hoger Lamedas Pampa, in Huanaco.

Significant charities that help orphans

Prior to the establishment of state care for orphans in First World countries, private charities existed to take care of destitute orphans, over time other charities have found other ways to care for children.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Orphanages.


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