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An orphan is one (typically a child) whose parents have died; most adults beyond a certain age have lost their parents and are not generally referred to as orphans. Today, in the first world, most orphans are cared for by adoption or, in the case of older children and minorities, foster care.

In past times, they often lived homeless as "street urchins", or were cared for in almshouses, orphanages, or occasionally monasteries; most modern people feel that this was a mistake, or, at the least, provided suboptimal care. In particular, almshouses were often shared with the adult homeless and the (sometimes dangerously) mentally ill in an age when many mental illnesses were incurable.

In some nations faced with war and AIDS, a significant proportion of the young population is orphaned, which is a major humanitarian crisis. In the People's Republic of China, infant daughters are sometimes abandoned due to the one child policy, which also creates a significant number of effective orphans.

Orphans typically suffer from adjustment problems related to identity, according to studies.