Defining Orphan

What is an orphan?  A common assumption is the belief or definition that an orphan is a child who both parents have died.  Another frequent position or definition is that an orphan is a child who lives in an orphanage.  Both of these definitions are accurate, but there is more.  When we examine the world and discuss the needs related to orphans there are more important factors to include in the definition.  Bethany Christian Services points out the reality that the majority of the world’s orphans have families.  Have families?  This is not something that holds to the common beliefs or definitions of what an orphan is.  

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th cd.), defines “orphan” in the following ways:

  • A child whose parents are dead.
  • A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted . . . 
  • One that lacks support, supervision, or care.

Around the world the practice is to use a more inclusive definition of orphan – one that tends to focus on a child who is deprived of parental care.  We are not talking about parents with an absence of love, but rather because of disease, poverty or other circumstances the inability to provide and care for the well-being of their child.  These children end up on the streets to fend for themselves or if they are fortunate enough to be taken in by an orphanage where they receive basic care and support.  

An orphan can be further classified by using definitions such as UNICEF’s  “single orphans,” which is a child with only one parent has died, or “double orphans,” which is a child with both parents having passed away.  In practice, though, we tend to think of children living in orphanages as orphans, although it is possible that both of their parents are alive but not caring for their child.

An orphan is a child who, because of the death of parent(s), poverty, disease, or some other circumstance, is seeking to fend or care for himself whether through roaming and surviving on the streets or finding care and support through a orphanage. 

No matter what the definition – the need is real.  Their is a calling to care for the orphans of the world.


Tell Birthmoms About You

Here you can post your profile for those considering adoption.

List Your Free Profile

Free and Easy!