Recent numbers from UNICEF report there are 151 million orphans worldwide. This figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father or mother. Of the 151 million children classified as orphans, 17.9 million have lost both parents.
People will often ask if we are making progress in the orphan crisis. This is a difficult question to answer given the large number of orphans and the lack of data. Let me address this question by sharing some of my personal experience and thinking of what has transpired in the last 5-10 years.
As of 2009, UNICEF reported 163 million orphans worldwide. In 2011 that number dropped to 153 million, and today UNICEF is reporting 151 million orphans worldwide. In the United States, at one time there were 130,000-150,000 children waiting for an adoptive home. This number has now been reported to be 104,000 and continued progress is being made to reduce the number of children in foster care who are waiting for an adoptive family.
Asia and Africa are the two geographic locations with the most daunting numbers. However, we rejoice in the victories we see beginning to grow there. For example, the number of children living in orphanages in China is declining as a result of foster care and increasing in-country adoption. Bethany has been involved in this activity in China and continues to work with the Chinese government to reduce the number of orphans living in institutions.
There have recently been two significant reports: the “U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity” and “Africa: The New Frontier for Intercountry Adoption.” Both of these reports strongly recommend family care for children. I see this as a very positive change in working toward protection and permanent placement for vulnerable children. Governments are seeing the devastating effects on children who grow up in institutions—even small group homes—and are realizing that families provide the best protection for a child.
From my experience and looking at the trends, I believe we are making progress in reducing the number of orphans in this world. This is done by providing assistance to families in crisis for help with their basic needs or for counseling, by strengthening medical and educational services, or by finding families for children through adoption.