5 Facts about orphans

November 9, 2017

This weekend is Orphan Sunday, an annual remembrance that reminds us that care and concern for orphans is of particular concern to Christians.

Here are five facts you should know about orphans in America and around the world:

1. A common assumption is that an orphan is a child who has two deceased parents. But the more inclusive definitions used by adoption and relief agencies tend to focus on a child who is deprived of parental care. An orphan can be further classified by using definitions such as UNICEF's  “single orphans,” which is a child with only one parent that has died, or “double orphans,” which is a child who has two parents that are deceased. Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan can also be a foreign-born child with a sole or surviving parent who is unable to provide for the child's basic needs, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. The majority of the world's orphans have families who are merely unable or unwilling to care for the child.

2. According to UNICEF estimates, there are 140 million children—a number equal to almost half the population of the United States—who have lost one or both parents due to any cause as of 2014. Out of those, 17.7 million were orphaned because one or both parents died of AIDS.

3. According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. families adopted 5,372 children from another country in 2016 (compared to the peak of 22,991 in 2004). Based on the report, Americans adopted the highest number of children from China, Congo, Ukraine, South Korea, Bulgaria, and Uganda. The top adopting states were Texas, California, Illinois, Florida, and New York.

4. In the United States in 2015 (the date of the latest data), there were 427,910 children in foster care and 111,820 waiting to be adopted. The average age of a child in foster care waiting to be adopted was 6.8 years old.  

5. Experts estimate there are more than a million embryonic humans who have been frozen and placed in storage in the United States. The vast majority of those children will live and die in an IVF clinic. That is more than a million orphans whose names we will never know and whose faces we will never see.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is the author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington location in Arlington, Virginia. Read More