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Former Berlin Pankow orphanage
Orphanage is the name to describe a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable to care for them. Parents, and sometimes 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 a way of providing for their care and housing. Children are educated within or outside of the orphanage. In Fujian Provincemarker, special needs children are educated within the orphanage. Orphanages in Pennsylvaniamarker must educate children in school districts.

Orphanages provide an alternative to foster care or adoption by giving orphans a community-based setting in which they live and learn. In the worst cases, orphanages can be dangerous and unregulated places where children are subject to abuse and neglect.

Today, the term orphanage has negative connotations. Other alternative names are group home, children's home, rehabilitation center and youth treatment center, house of Donna.


The first orphanages, called "orphanotrophia," were founded 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, and 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 particularly commended 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.

Historically, certain birth parents were often pressured or forced to give up their children to orphanages: those of children born out of wedlock or into poor families; those with disabilities or of children born with disabilities; and those of girls born into patriarchal societies. Such practices are assumed to be quite rare in the modern Western world, thanks to improved social security and changed social attitudes, but remain in force in many other countries.

Since 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.

Parents or the extended family that are unable or unfit to care for children have their kids removed from them. This is temporary if the parents or extended family is willing to be given training to care for their kids. 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 Romaniamarker 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 largest remaining orphanage is the Bethesda Orphanage, founded in 1740 by George Whitefield.

In many works of fiction (notably Oliver Twist and Annie), the administrators of orphanages are depicted as cruel monsters.


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 colic in babies.

"In 1998, there were a total of 1,101 places and 1,099 wards in the orphanages across Estonia. The number of wards in orphanages has remained stabile over the years (e.g. in 1993, there were 1,098 children in orphanages). This can be partly explained by the lack of orphanages for street children who have different lifestyles and habits that are threatening to health and life."In 2007, there are 20 orphanages and foster homes across Estonia and 1600 children in orphanages.

"More than 22,000 orphaned and abandoned children are in state custody in Hungary."

Positive changes in the situation of foster children can be seen. In 1995, the International Children's Rights Convention was ratified, and NGOs became more active in this field. There are about 40 organizations and foundations that shelter children: the Lithuanian Children's Fund, Viltis, the SOS Children's Homes, and the assistance foundation Vaiko tëviðkes namai.At present, there are 30 affiliates of SOS Children, and ten children's villages have been created, in which 300 children live. In each house in each village, there are five to seven children living along with their guardian, or "mother". Children aged eight or over are taken into these villages and stay there until they are 18.

"In Poland today there are 350 orphanages-the highest number in Central Europe- including about 100 smaller orphanages run by families. They are home to about 80,000 children."

Republic of Moldovamarker
There are approximately 2000 children in orphanages, including 279 in orphanages "of the family type", in the Republic of Moldova.

We have reformed the child protection system and made it possible for local authorities to prevent abandonment and protect all children in need, by appropriate placement in substitute families.

What the investigation makes clear is that some county authorities are not implementing the child right legislation.

/Romania government.[47347]

"Slovak orphanages house about 5,000 children aged 3-18 in 70 orphanages in Slovakia. Ten percent of these children are in the process of being adopted. Forty percent have guardians who are not their parents, and remaining forty percent were placed in orphanages for legal institutional care. Due to the small number of children who are "legally free for adoption," coupled with restrictive Slovak legislation, no Slovak children have been adopted by foreigners until very recently. Slovak orphanages for children up to age 3 are administered by the Ministry of Healthof the Slovak Republic; orphanages for children of ages 3–18 by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Slovak Republic.


"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."The are also 192 children at The Awladi, 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 (12/13/2001)."A Child by Any Other Name" by Réhab El-Bakry. Egypt Today (11/2002).

Orphanage Project in Egypt—

"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."

GhanaA 2007 survey sponsored by OrphanAid Africa and carried out by the Department of Social Welfare came up with the figure of 4800 children in institutional care in 148 orphanages.Of these at least four have since been closed. The website 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.

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

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 the year 2000 South Africa does not licence orphanages anymore but rather preferes community based family homes. 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% grandparents55% extended family1% older orphan6% non-relative

Statistics on the total number of children in orphanages nation-wide are unavailable, but caregivers say their facilities were becoming unmanageably overwhelmed almost on a daily basis.There are 38 privately run children's charity homes, or orphanages, in the country, and the government operates eight of its own.

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.)

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

Sierra Leonemarker
Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned by AIDS, 2005, estimate 31,000Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 340,000Orphans, Orphan school attendance ratio, 1999-2005 71,000

  • Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned by AIDS, 2005, estimate 25,000
  • Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 560,000
  • Orphans, Orphan school attendance ratio, 1999-2005 74,000


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 7000 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.

"On the other hand, 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 Koreamarker
"There are now 17,000 children in public orphanages throughout the country and untold numbers at private institutions."

"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." 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 institutions250 -babies in three available "baby homes"400 -Destitute Children's Rehabilitation Centre100 -Vocational Training Centre for Orphans and Destitute Children1,400 -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

As in other parts of the world, non-government organizations such as Save the Children are increasingly focusing their efforts away from orphanages and into community-based care for orphans. The first community-based care program in Cambodia was established in 2000 by Servants to Asia's Urban Poor [47348] and called Project HALO [47349] (Hope, Assistance and Love for Orphans), mobilizing care for more than 1000 children orphaned by AIDS within their own communities and extended families. A large number of other organizations, such as World Orphans, who have funded construction for 47 orphanages in the past three years, house thousands of orphans in orphanages dotted across the country. Most Cambodian orphans are orphaned due to their parents dying from AIDS and some from land mines. The total number of orphans is unknown: "There are no accurate figures available on how many orphans there are in Cambodia."

"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 by the government for the country's orphan population, 100,000, 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.

Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 25,700,000

State of [Andhra Pradesh] -Children's Homes – 5,050 : 6 – 18 years of age Refer to “Children’s Homes.” Government of Andhra Pradesh

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."

In the town of Phonsavan is one of the largest orphanages in Laos. It is an S.O.S. orphanage and there are over 120 orphans living in the facility.

Palestinian Territorymarker
"In 1999, the number of children living in orphanages witnessed a considerable drop as compared to 1998. This 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."

Orphans, Children (0–17 years) orphaned due to all causes, 2005, estimate 25,000

Former Soviet Unionmarker

There are some 153,000 children and teenagers living in state institutions according to Russia's Health Ministry. Some 15,000 young people graduate from the state-run orphanages every year.[47350] There are many web pages of Russian orphanages, but very few of them are in English, such as St Nicholas Orphanage in Siberiamarker or the Alapaevskmarker 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

While information is available for orphaned children, there are no specific numbers for those orphans placed in orphanages. "The analysis of the reason why a child is in an institution shows that the proportion of the number of orphans in the children's social care institutions was only 5.6% although the dynamic pointed to an increasing number of orphans." See Figure 4.2.

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

103 000

Other information:
  • thousands - Zaporizhia region
  • 150 – Kiev State Baby Orphanage
  • 30 – Beregena Orphanage
  • 120 – Dom Invalid Orphanage

Partial Information: 80 – Takhtakupar Orphanage



No information for the number of children actually in orphanages. The number of orphaned and abandoned children is approximately 91,000.

North America & Caribbean


"Children in Institutions: 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 Ha_tienne (CENH) indicated that is 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." / "The CENH figures seem high when compared to Schwarz's 1999 count of five rural and three urban orphanages in the Northwest Province and northern Artibonite, with a total of 376 children. 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."


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

United Statesmarker

Partial information:
  • Independent Order of Odd Fellows was the first fraternal order and first organization to establish an orphanage in the United States. Odd Fellows established countless orphanages throughout the United States, all funded through charity. More Odd Fellows orphanages existed than any other in the United States, before the government would pay for them. To this day Odd Fellows works to help and support orphans through SOS Village, just one of their many projects of charity.

  • Established in 1790, The Charleston Orphan House, located in Charleston, SC was the first public orphanage in the United States. Today the organization continues its 200 year legacy under the name of [Carolina Youth Development Center] A complete history of the organization entitled, A Legacy of Caring: The Charleston Orphan House 1790-1990 was published by Wyrick and Company, Charleston, SC 1991.

Central and South America


"…currently there are about 20,000 children in orphanages." [47351]
In a Columbia orphanage, a nurse takes care of three children.

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.

  • Independent Order of Odd Fellows was the first fraternal order and first organization to an establish an orphanage in the United States. Odd Fellows establish countless orphanages throughout the United States, all funded through charity. More Odd Fellows orphanage existed than any other in the United States, before the government would pay for them. To this day Odd Fellows' works to help and support orphans though SOS Village. Just one of Odd Fellows many projects of charity.

  • SOS Children's Villages is the world's largest non-governmental, non-denominational child welfare organization. Its mission is to provide stable homes and loving families for orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

See also


  1. [1] Education in orphanages, accessed September 28, 2009
  2. [2] Children in Institutional Settings, accessed September 28, 2009
  3. Coalition for Residential Education
  4. [3], accessed September 3, 2009
  5. Abernethy, Virginia D. _Population Politics_. New York: Plenum Press, 1993.
  6. [4]
  7. Social Protection and Risk Management - Social Safety Nets
  8. Africa - Africa Region Human Development Working Paper Series
  9. Table Of Contents
  11. [5]
  12. MPAK - LA Times Article
  13. Poverty forces Kabul parents to send kids to orphanages |
  14. Virginia Haussegger Mahboba's promise ABC TV 7.30 Report. 2009. (last accessed 15 July 2009)
  15. Women And Children In Disadvantaged Situations
  16. China: A Policy of Fatal Neglect in China’s State Orphanages
  17. Russian Orphans Facts and Statistics
  18. Information about Russian orphans
  19. BBC NEWS |Health warning over Russian youth
  20. Human Rights Watch
  21. Azerbaijan
  22. Kyrgyzstan Children's Work
  23. Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia
  24. [6]
  25. The parentless don’t need cheap pity. Alla KOTLIAR, Yekaterina SHCHETKINA | Society |People
  26. A photoreport: “From Heart to Heart – 2”: a trip to the rural orphanages of Zaporozhye region :: Zaporozhzhya orphans. Ukraine
  27. Kiev Children's Work
  28. Dnepropetrovsk Children's Work
  29. [7] page 14 and 15 of actual report, not web page counter

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