Children without parents

Story by Anne Dudley  |  Photos by Melinda Yoho  |  Photo Gallery


  • World Bank estimates India’s population to be 1.2 billion. Although the economy is rapidly growing, severe poverty still exists, leaving many parents unable to care for their children.
  • Foster care and adoption are not the only options for children without parents. Many are raised into adulthood in schools or homes.
Street children pose for photos

Many of the children running and playing in the streets of Delhi are orphans without a home.

Brother and sister holding hands

The abandoned brother and sister hold hands in their new home.

In a town in northern India, a father instructs his son and daughter to wait outside a store while he goes inside to buy them candy. Brother and sister, each no older than 5 years old, wait the entire day for their father to return. Alone, the two hold hands.

An aunt of the brother and sister found the children at the store. Unable to care for them herself, she told a pastor about the siblings. The pastor brought the boy and girl to a Christian school and home for children, where more than 1,000 kids in similar situations go to live. For days after the son and daughter arrived they held hands, holding on to the only thing they recognized.

“They don’t want to part,” said the pastor who runs the school. “They don’t want to be left alone anymore.”

In Delhi, India, not all children without parents are orphans. And they don’t all get adopted. Their situations range from selling flowers on the street near malls and metro stops, to living at schools with hundreds of other children, just like them. Institutions provide their care and education, and they leave to attend universities, begin vocations or get married.

Some children in the Christian school have families and relatives that may come back to visit them, while others do not.

“There are orphans who come here, but we don’t give anyone for adoption. We raise them up,” the pastor said, a practice that seems to be more prevalent here than in orphanages or foster homes in America.

Orphan girl in India

Orphans in India often have a much better life once they are taken in by charitable organizations. The schools care for the children very well.

Catalysts for Social Action, a community organization for child rehabilitation and adoption, reported a 700% increase in the number of children supported in its associated orphanages and agencies from 2006 to 2011, a growth from 120 to more than 800 orphans. Exactly 174 orphans were adopted in 2011 through CSA or the agencies they support.

The Central Adoption Resource Authority under the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India, the regulating authority on domestic and international adoption in India, reported 6,286 adoptions in 2010. This figure combines domestic and international adoptions and surpasses the preceding 4 years by more than 3,000 adoptions per year.

Rajni Raway’s husband grew up in a children’s home in the Narain Dharmarath Aushdhalya Trust where she is now the officer in charge. The trust has provided schooling and homes for orphaned children for 94 years using government funding and private donations. Currently they house, clothe, feed and educate 2,500 children in two homes in Delhi. She affirms that the number of children living in both schools is on the rise.

At one of the trust’s two schools, a group of girls ages 7 to 13 crowd by bunk beds to greet American visitors. The girls, who want to be Delhi’s future lawyers, judges and English teachers, remember when they came to the school and affirm that life, overall, is better now.

Orphans at a home in Delhi

Orphans at a home and school run by the Narain Dharmarath Aushdhalya Trust in Delhi spend time in the courtyard outside their dormitories. explains, “Sustaining the cycle of poverty in India are limited education and employment opportunities, inadequate social and physical infrastructures, and the legacy of a caste system that determines, at birth, one’s rank in society.” Although the Indian economy is swiftly growing, more than 700 million people still live in poverty according to Holt. As this traditional and family-oriented country modernizes, some are left behind. Parents facing poverty and little social support are driven to abandon or surrender their children.

For the 55 young men living at Daryaganj Orphanage, a school for orphan boys funded by a charitable trust of the Jain community, a parent’s death certificate was required for admission as the home is specifically for orphans.

Former policeman Sahab Singh Yadav, the school caretaker, handles all of the boys’ needs for food, manages the grounds and assists with any problems the boys have. He’s devoted 24 years to the school while his family and two children live in his native town. Mrs. Baijal, who is from Ghaziabad, has taught first through fifth years of primary school for 23 years. She volunteers her time as charity. The school provides the first twelve classes for the boys until they’re 17. Most of the boys are Jains, while the staff, such as Mrs. Beijal, practice other religions.

According to Mr. Yadav, his work is his “worship; service to children is his service to humanity.”

Although it takes people like Mr. Yadav and Mrs. Baijal who dedicate their lives to orphans, the rapidly developing economy and growing population will likely exacerbate the situation before it gets better.

Category: Faith, families and education