Oct 25, 2010

143 million orphans ... uh, not exactly

I am giving fair warning now that this might not be a popular post.  But I have this pet peeve about accuracy and truth.

First let's start with the fact that I think ALL children deserve a great life.  A family.  Love.

I know that God is the Father of the Fatherless and I truly believe it is up to US how we care for HIS kids.  And I truly believe that we will answer for how we did that.

I believe in Matthew 25 where it calls us to take care of the "least of these" ... orphans would certainly be on that list.

James 1:29 ... taking care of the fatherless and the widow.

etc etc etc.

Clearly I am "on board" with this whole concept.

So what's the problem?

The number 143 million "orphans" (also seen the 147 million number being thrown out recently, not sure where they get that.)

Up until fairly recently I was spouting that number as gospel as well.  I wanted to cite the source in a book I'm writing so I went looking for the source of that number.  And I found it.  Unicef.  I have no clue how they got this number but this is where the 143 million orphans number comes from.  (See link 1 below.)

Again, what's my problem?

ORPHAN .. I thought that meant had no parents.  But according to them, it's if you have lost one or more parents.  (see link 2 below)

uhhhh ... that changes everything.   So there are 143 million kids who have been identified as "at risk" which would be a better term in my opinion for this group.  (Still needy, yes! But need to be adopted? no)

Of those 143 million, approximately 16 million have lost both parents.  (NOW we're talking Orphan ... well sorta).  Because most of those (number not mentioned in the article) ... are living with relatives such as a grandparent or aunt, etc.  Like I said, I have no clue if those numbers are accurate or not.  These are their numbers.

So how many kids are actually in need of rehoming?  How many live in an orphanage?  In foster homes?  versus those who are living with a parent of family?  How many of these 143 million need to be adopted?  A lot.  Many.  Too many.   But certainly not 143 million.

My point?  I feel betrayed.  I feel misled.  I feel like people keep this number circulating, thinking it's how many kids need to be adopted ... and clearly it is not.

Adoption needs to be a huge push.  I think the Christian community needs to step up bigger and adopt more kids.  (My personal philosophy.)  We also need to do more of "At risk kids" care ... like helping those kids right in their own communities with clean water, safe streets, warm clothing, proper nutrition, good education, etc.  Because 143 million kids need HELP, not necessarily a new mom and dad.

Bottom line ... if you happen to be one of those continuing to use the number 143 million orphans needing to be adopted, would you please consider changing it to reflect the accurate picture of what is really going on?  Especially if you are a part of a bigger organization.  Thanks.


http://www.unicef.org/sowc06/press/who.php  the 143 million number

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_45279.html  THEIR definition of "orphan"


  1. Good research, Beth. I agree that it's important to focus also on the children whose needs are huge, even if they are living in a family. As much as I support adoption, I know I cannot adopt but a limited number of children. There are other ways we can help. Maybe some links and ideas would be good for your next post. :)

  2. UNICEF does not believe in adoption of children out of their birth country. UNICEF has been a big player in the past few years of trying to stop all international adoptions.