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Until the late 20th century, orphan homes were one of the principal providers of out-of-home care for children in most Western nations. Although their form and structure varied, they offered a style of congregate or large-group care that contrasted with the substitute family aspired to by the alternate models of boarding out or foster care. This entry traces the history of the orphan home, identifying the functions it was intended to perform, the children to whom it catered, and the childhood it was able to offer to them.

Origins and Development

Orphan homes, also called orphan asylums, or orphanages, arose at the point at which philanthropists sought to differentiate children from the general mass of the institutionalized poor. Despite their title, rarely were such institutions restricted to ...

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