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Studies and Statistics

These studies and statistics are just the beginning of examples showing how poor orphan care (i.e., orphan care lacking proper familial attachment, education, nutrition, and community integration) has a causal relationship with higher incidences of social ills that plague our society.

(i) A 2002 Russian case study followed approximately 15,000 Russian orphans who left institutional orphanages when they aged out of the system at 16 to 18 years old. The study found that two years after aging out of the orphanages, about 5,000 of the 15,000 children were unemployed, about 6,000 were homeless, around 3,000 had committed crime, approximately 1,500 committed suicide, and roughly half of the girls had been forced into prostitution.

(ii) Statistics on fatherless homes in America paint a similar picture. Today, 45% of the homes in America are fatherless, up from only 5% in the 1960s. During that same time, many societal problems have also increased exponentially. While we all know that other factors are contributory causes to the increase, we can’t ignore the major role that fatherlessness and our corresponding apathy toward the absence of men in our children’s lives have played in the increase in social ills over the past several decades. Today in America, children from fatherless homes account for:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides
  • 71 percent of pregnant teens
  • 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders
  • 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
  • 85 percent of all youths in prison

And children from fatherless homes are nearly twice as likely to struggle with hyperactivity, conduct, and emotional disorders and have a social impairment. They are nearly three times as likely to be struggling in school or to have repeated a grade. They are five times more likely to be poor, 33 times more likely to be seriously abused (requiring medical attention), and 73 times more likely to be killed.

(Source: John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story, Zondervan)

(iii) Although reflecting only broad projections, the estimated number of orphans globally currently reported by the US Government and UNICEF include:

  • 17.8 million children worldwide have lost both parents (“double orphan”)
  • 153 million children worldwide have lost either one parent (“single orphan”) or both parents.

There are many inherent limitations to any data that claims to be truly “global” in nature. While such data can help us gain a clearer picture of the size and scope of need, it can also be misleading.

One of the greatest weaknesses in these global orphan estimates is that they include only orphans that are currently living in homes. They do not count the estimated 2 to 8+ million children living in institutions. Nor do current estimates include the vast number of children who are living on the streets, exploited for labor, victims of trafficking, or participating in armed groups. Thus, global orphan statistics significantly underestimate the number of orphans worldwide and fail to account for many children that are among the most vulnerable and most in need of a family.

Many of these children who live in orphanages or on the streets are known as “social orphans.” Although one or even both of their parents may be alive, social orphans rarely see their parents or experience life in a family. Some never do. Global orphan statistics shed virtually no light on the reality of the vast number of social orphans who have one or more living parents, yet experience life as if they did not.

Finally, these global estimates reveal nothing about the distinct needs of individual children. Losing one or both parents increases a child’s vulnerability greatly. But seeking the best outcome for each child requires knowing much more than orphan status alone.

(Source: “Christian Alliance for Orphans’ White Paper on Understanding Orphan Statistics”)