150+ Million At-Risk Children

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Understanding Statistics About Orphans


Mercy Projects would like to thank the Christian Alliance for Orphans, of which we are a member, for their in-depth analysis of the global orphan crisis reprinted here. We affirm the historic Christian understanding—conveyed in Scripture and affirmed by social science —that God intended the family as the essential environment for children. We believe the ideal outcome for every orphan is to know the love and nurture of a permanent family.

Current Global Estimates

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

o 17.8 million children worldwide have lost both parents (“double orphan”)

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

Missing From the Estimates

One of the greatest weaknesses in these global orphan estimates is that they include only orphans who 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 who are among the most vulnerable and most in need of a family. Many of the children living 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 two living parents, yet experience life as if they did not.

Our Ministry is About Child and Family Development

1) Preserving Families: We work to aid families of widows, families with single mothers, and other families at risk of disintegration. We offer support and opportunities that enable these families to remain safely intact and provide resources to help them thrive.

2) Reuniting Families: We work to rejoin families that have been broken apart. We work with Safe Families For Children in southern California to provide community support for children, and families in crisis. In Ukraine, we support and advocate for Christian foster families to raise orphans as their own.

3) Expanding Families: When birth parents have died or are unwilling or unable to provide adequate care, we encourage placing orphans in permanent, loving families through adoption, first in their own country, and last through international adoption.

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