This past weekend was Orphan Sunday, a day many Christians and churches set aside to recognize God’s call that we defend the fatherless, care for the child that has no family, and visit orphans in their distress. Here are nine things you should know about orphans in America and around the world.

1. A common assumption is the belief or definition that an orphan is a child who both two deceased parents. But the more inclusive definitions used by adoption and relief agencies tend to focus on a child who is deprived of parental care. An orphan can be further classified by using definitions such as UNICEF’s “single orphan,” which is a child with only one parent that has died, or “double orphan,” which is a child who has two parents that are deceased. Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan can also be a foreign-born child with a sole or surviving parent who is unable to provide for the child’s basic needs, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. The majority of the world’s orphans have families who are merely unable or unwilling to care for the child.

2. According to UNICEF estimates, there are 17.9 million orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets and lack the care and attention required for healthy development.

3. According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. families adopted 6,441 children from another country in fiscal year 2014 (compared to 22,991 in 2004). Last year, Americans adopted the highest number of children from China (2,040), Ethiopia (716), Ukraine (521), Haiti (464), South Korea (370).

4. As of September 30, 2014, there were 415,129 children in foster care in the United States. Out of that number, 120,334 are in foster care in a relatives’ home, 190,454 in non-relative foster care, 23,233 are in group homes, 32,955 in institutions, and 4,544 are listed as runaways.

5. The median age of entry into the U.S. foster care system is 6.4 years old, while the median age of exit is 8 years old. The median time in care is one and half years.

6. The average length of time a child waits to be adopted in foster care is almost three years. Roughly 55 percent of these children have had three or more placements. One study found that 33 percent of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally.

7. Children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than their peers in foster care, according to a meta-analysis of 75 studies (more than 3,800 children in 19 countries).

8. Each year, more than 27,000 youth “age out” of foster care without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed. Nearly 25 percent of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED, and a mere 6 percent had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care.

9. Around the globe, hundreds of thousands of embryonic humans have been frozen and placed in storage. (While exact numbers are difficult to obtain, a study by the Rand Corporation in 2002 found that there were 396,526 embryonic humans in storage in the United States.) Most of them will live and die in an IVF clinic. Estimates are that there are nearly half a million orphans whose names we will never know and whose faces we will never see.

Other articles in this series:

Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Margaret Sanger • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues