How Many Orphans in the U.S.? (2022)

“Do orphanages still exist in America?” and “How many orphans in the U.S.?” are common questions you may hear people ask about, considering that there are an estimated 10 million children living in institutions and more than 60 million children living on the streets today.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word orphan as “a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents.” However, according to Wikipedia, most children who live in orphanages are not orphans by dictionary standards, rather, today,“four out of five children in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent and most having some extended family.”

How Many Orphans in the U.S.?

While technically no longer referred to as orphans, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoptionpegs the number of children in U.S. foster care at a staggering 443,000, more than 123,000 of whom are considered to be waiting children available for adoption.

The Foundation further explains that the U.S. foster care system includes children of every age, race, ethnic group, and socioeconomic category. Some children are waiting alone and others are waiting with siblings. These children enter foster care through no fault of their own. Oftentimes, these children are the victims of child abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. They are removed from their homes because their birth family has proven unable or unwilling to provide a safe environment for them.

Race and Adoption

According to a report fromthe Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, “Children adopted privately from the U.S. are most likely to be white (50 percent); those adopted internationally are least likely to be white (19 percent). The majority of children adopted internationally are Asian (59 percent).”

Before we talk about foster homes, it’s important to understand how we’ve arrived here.

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The History of Orphanages in the U.S.

In 1729, the first orphanage in the United States was created. According to “Orphanage: An Historical Overview,” it was created “to care for white children who had been orphaned by a conflict between Indians and Whites at Natchez, Mississippi. Orphanages grew and between 1830 and 1850 alone, private charitable groups established 56 children’s institutions in the United States.”

Orphanages in the U.S. Today’s article, “Do Orphanages Still Exist in America” offers a brief history of orphanages in the U.S. According to the author,

Around the 1900s, the progressive movement began to have a big influence on social thought in America. As a result, reformers started rethinking the orphanage system and created the earliest form of the child welfare system. President Theodore Roosevelt championed the change by forming a conference of leading experts of the day in the field of child care at the Conference on the Care of Dependent Children. Largely due to their vision for child welfare in the US, the reformers moved for Congress to form the United States Children’s Bureau.”

What is Foster Care?

According to Wikipedia, “Foster care is a system in which a minor has been placed into a ward, group home (residential child care community, treatment center, etc.), or private home of a state-certified caregiver, referred to as a “foster parent” or with a family member approved by the state.”

Aging Out

The Dave Thomas Foundation stated, “One of the greatest needs for the children who age out of foster care is to connect with a loving mentor who will guide them through important decisions. If you have a small business that can provide vocational training or if you have experience with college applications and scholarships, this may be the perfect way for you to care for those who are aging out of the system! Contact your local Department of Human Services for more information about becoming a mentor.”

When considering how many orphans in the U.S., we often think of infants and children, but it should be noted that in the U.S., more than 20,000 children will age out of the foster care system, leaving these young adults without any form of support and exposing them to a higher risk for health issues, homelessness, and lack of education.

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Additionally, per the National Foster Youth Institute website, ” after reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless. … Only one out of every two foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.”

In other words, according to Wikipedia, “one out of 50 children, or 1.5 million children in the U.S., will be homeless each year. In 2013 that number jumped to one out of 30 children, or 2.5 million.”

To learn more about U.S. child welfare, foster care, and adoption information on a state-to-state basis, go to:

Orphans Around the Globe

Larger than the question of how many orphans in the U.S., is how many orphans are we aware of worldwide? The World Orphans website states there are approximately 140 million orphans throughout the world. The website thenposes the question of why society should focus on its orphans.

The site offers the following statistics:

  • “The number of children under the age of 18 who have been coerced or induced to take up arms as child soldiers is generally thought to be in the range of 300,000. Armed forces in over 50 countries currently recruit children under age 18.

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  • “More than 17 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

  • “Of those children that have lost a parent/parents to AIDS, 15 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • “Worldwide, an estimated 300 million children are subjected to violence, exploitation, and abuse. Practices include the worst forms of child labor, armed conflict, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage.”

The article, Orphans in the World: 7 Shocking Statistics indicates that there were 7,000 international adoptions in 2012 involving U.S. families. It also states that “most of those children were born in China, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The peak of international adoptions was in 2004 and has decreased due to restrictions by the sending countries. … Of the majority of orphans, a striking 95%, are over the age of five.”

While not always popular, one of the safest ways to protect orphaned and abandoned children remains to ensure institutions such as orphanages are available to unparented children, especially in cases where reunification is out of the question.

Orphanages Around the Globe

While orphanage adoption may be a thing of the past in the U.S., hopeful parents who want to adopt a child from an orphanage may still be able to do so through international adoption.

(Video) Russia's Forgotten Orphans | Children of the State (Orphanage Documentary) | Real Stories provides a wealth of information surrounding all things international adoption here: Additionally, the article, “10 Most Popular Countries to Adopt from and Their Adoption Policies,”provides an overview and basic guidelines for the 10 most popular countries to adopt from.

The debate as to whether or not orphanages are a viable solution for children with no homes is no small issue. The article “Orphanages May Be Due for a Comeback,” sited UNICEF figures and stated that “there were more than 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005.”

Still, others are adamant that orphanages are part of the problem and not the solution. As the Poverty Inc. article quoted the Better Care Network video, “The research demonstrates, there are not bad and good orphanages. Rather, orphanages are simply not a good solution for children. Children grow up best in families.”

Many adoption advocates, including the Coalition for the Human Rights of Unparented Children, have made it their mission to “advocate for children’s most fundamental need, and most basic human right: To grow up in loving, nurturing families, with committed parents capable of providing unconditional love on an ongoing basis.”

Take Action

Regardless of opinions on private adoption, foster care, or international adoption and orphanages—the fact remains that millions of children today are without families and homes and their future is one full of bleak uncertainty.

If the question of how many orphans in the U.S. is one that you would like to learn more about in an effort to be part of the solution, there are many online resources that will help you get started, including

(Video) WW2 'Brown Babies': A little-known part of British 20th Century history - BBC World Service podcast

Visit’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.


How Many Orphans in the U.S.? ›

While technically no longer referred to as orphans, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption pegs the number of children in U.S. foster care at a staggering 443,000, more than 123,000 of whom are considered to be waiting children available for adoption.

How many babies go unadopted in the US? ›

How many children are waiting to be adopted in the United States? Of the over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S., 114,556 cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted.

What state in the US has the most orphans? ›

States with the Most Underprivileged Children
Overall Rank*StateTotal Score
2West Virginia63.47
4New Mexico59.66
47 more rows
Aug 10, 2022

What percentage of children in the US are orphans? ›

On this basis, orphans constituted 6 percent of the estimated 48 million children under age 18 in that month; paternal-only orphans, 4 percent; maternal-only orphans, 2 percent; and complete orphans, 0.2 percent (table 1).

Do orphanages still exist in us? ›

Since then, U.S. orphanages have gone extinct entirely. In their place are some modern boarding schools, residential treatment centers and group homes, though foster care remains the most common form of support for children who are waiting for adoption or reunification with their families.

What age group is least likely to adopt? ›

The NSAP collected information on the childs age at time of placement into the family who adopted them. Overall, 20 percent of children adopted from foster care were six years or older at the time of placement, 45 percent were under one year of age, and 35 percent were between the ages of one and five years old.

Who is most likely to adopt a child? ›

Significantly more adopters are men, over age 30, are ever married, have biological children, and have ever used infertility services. Women who have adopted are older than women who have given birth to a child.

How many babies are abandoned in the US each year? ›

A federal study has found that at least 22,000 babies are left in hospitals each year by parents unwilling or unable to care for them, indicating for the first time how widespread the nation's “boarder baby” problem has become.

How many kids go missing in Foster? ›

In a report in May, the inspector general counted 110,446 missing children episodes from July 2018 through December 2020. In 36 states, the average number of days foster children were missing varied from seven to 46, and nine states reported that missing children disappeared for more than 50 days on average.

Which state is easiest to adopt from? ›

For example, some of the friendliest adoptive states seem to be:
  • Minnesota.
  • Nebraska.
  • New Hampshire.
  • New Mexico.
  • Oklahoma.
  • Oregon.
  • Tennessee.
  • Utah.

Which country has most orphans? ›

Asia holds the largest number of orphaned children, at 71 million – India alone is home to 31 million orphans. This is followed by Africa, which harbors 59 million. 3. Each day, 39,000 children are forced from their homes alone because of the death of a parent, family illness or abuse and abandonment.

How many children in the US are parentless? ›

Nearly 1 in 4, approximately 18 million, U.S. children lived with at least one immigrant parent in 2018. More than 1 in 4 immigrant children did not have health coverage in 2019, 25.5 percent compared to 5.1 percent of native-born citizen children. An estimated 6.9 million children lived with undocumented parents.

At what age can you no longer be an orphan? ›

UNICEF and its global partners define an orphan as “a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death.”

Why did the US get rid of orphanages? ›

Traditional orphanages began closing in the United States following World War II, as public social services were on the rise and child welfare reformers began advocating for a formal foster care system.

Why are there no orphanages in America? ›

US adoption policy and procedures, as well as child protection laws, began to take shape, leading to the demise of traditional American orphanages, which were replaced with individual and small group foster homes.

What percent of orphans get adopted in the US? ›

In 2019, 56% of the children who left foster care were reunited with their families or living with a relative; 26% were adopted.

What country adopts the most? ›

Despite the recent decline in adoptions from abroad, the U.S. remains the country that adopts the most children internationally.

What is the oldest age to adopt a child? ›

For domestic and international adoptions, the age of the prospective parents must be legal age, which is 21 years or older. In the US there is usually no age cutoff, meaning you can adopt a child as long as you are 21 or over.

Which religions adopt the most? ›

Barna Research has found that practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt as the general population. These findings also showed that practicing Christians were more likely to adopt older children, children with special needs, and other children considered “hard to place.”

WHO adopts most in the USA? ›

Caucasians. Most adoptive parents (73 percent) are non-Hispanic white adults, according to a study by the Barna Group. However, they are less likely to adopt a Caucasian child. Only 37 percent of children adopted are Caucasian.

What is the easiest country to adopt from? ›

According to the list, China is the number one easiest country to adopt from. This is due to their stable and predictable program. Adopting is a life-changing decision.

How many babies are stolen from hospitals each year? ›

2019, 327 children under the age of one have been abducted in the U.S., according to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Forty-one of those cases have been in Texas. Among all those cases, 140 were abducted from healthcare facilities, 140 from homes and 47 in other locations.

Can I keep a baby if I find one? ›

If you do find a baby, call the authorities right away. The state's Department of Family and Child Services will likely take custody of the baby and try to find any relatives. If none are found, you can then try to apply to be a foster parent or to adopt the child.

How many babies are left in baby boxes? ›

Twenty-one babies have been left in the boxes since 2017, and the average amount of time a child is inside the box is less than two minutes, Ms. Kelsey said. She has raised money to put up dozens of billboards advertising the safe haven option.

Where do most child abductions occur? ›

Attempted abductions most often occur on the street while children are playing, walking, or riding bikes. Younger children are more likely to be playing or walking with a parent or an adult whereas school-age children are more likely to be walking alone or with peers.

How many missing persons are never found? ›

In absolute terms, California has the largest number of missing persons at 3,010.
Missing Persons by State 2022.
StateTotal Missing
46 more rows

What percentage of missing persons are found? ›

By the time the study data were collected, 99.8% of 1.3 million caretaker missing children had been returned home alive or located. Only 0.2% percent or 2,500 had not, the vast majority of which were runaways from institutions.

How many babies are abandoned in America each year? ›

Adopting a baby or toddler is much more difficult than it was a few decades ago. Of the nearly 4 million American children who are born each year, only about 18,000 are voluntarily relinquished for adoption.

How many babies are abandoned in dumpsters? ›

While more than 3,500 newborns have been surrendered through safe haven laws nationwide since the first measure took effect in Texas in 1999, more than 1,400 have been found abandoned since then as well, according to the National Safe Haven Alliance.

How many babies are abandoned each year in the world? ›

The United Nations estimates 60 million children and infants have been abandoned by their families and live on their own or in orphanages in the world. In the United States, more than 7,000 children are abandoned each year.

What percent of kids are a mistake? ›

Currently, an astonishing 45 percent of the 6 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended.


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