Globally, UNICEF estimates that there are 140 million children in need of adoption, and in response to this crisis, many compassionate people desire to write a proposal to start an orphanage. In the United States, orphanages have gone by the wayside in favor of adoption through the foster care system. Other services, like group homes and boarding schools, also provide residential care for children in special circumstances. In some foreign countries, orphanages remain in use, but starting them as a foreigner can be nearly impossible.

Consider Foster Parenting

In the United States, orphanages have been replaced by the foster care system, so consider becoming a licensed foster care family. In order to qualify, you must be able to provide care to your foster children around the clock, be financially stable, have a home free of hazards, be emotionally able to care for children and be able to pass a background check. The process of becoming certified is long and includes many steps:

  • Initial contact with your state's agency
  • Foster parent classes
  • Capability assessments
  • Family assessments
  • References and background checks
  • Home safety evaluations
  • Trauma-informed care training 
  • Orientation, agency training and licensing 

Once you are officially certified, you will await placement of children in your care. Your state's agency will provide some financial stipend to help offset the cost of fostering children, but this amount often does not cover all of the child's expenses.

Group Homes and Boarding Schools

Many areas in the U.S. offer group homes and boarding schools as an option for children in special circumstances. Group homes provide care for multiple foster children or children with special needs, but the children attend school outside of the group home. Boarding schools include onsite education in addition to residential care services.

The process for starting a group home or boarding school varies from state to state. You will need to decide whether or not your institution will be a nonprofit organization and go through the application process necessary to receive that designation. Then, you must work with your state's social service agencies to ensure you meet safety, housing, location and staffing requirements.

The process for starting a boarding school also includes the following:

  • Niche identification: age, population, special needs
  • Board formation and registration with governmental agencies
  • Budget and business planning
  • Home and school preparation
  • Inspections
  • Staffing and hiring
  • Fundraising 
  • Marketing and coordination with agencies

Opening Orphanages Abroad

Even though the U.S. does not have an orphanage system, many countries around the world still operate orphanages to care for children. It can be tempting to craft a proposal to start an orphanage in a location where orphans are desperately in need of care, but this is easier said than done. Many countries do not allow foreigners to operate an orphanage, so you will likely need to seek residency or citizenship to begin the process and start an orphanage.

Instead of opening an orphanage in Africa, Asia or another part of the world, it is more feasible to partner with an already established orphanage in the area where you want to make an impact. Try spending a month or two volunteering in the orphanage before making a permanent move to ensure it is the right fit for you. Alternatively, an already established organization could create a proposal to start an orphanage for you and then provide the means for you to reside on-site and care for the children.

Financial Considerations

While operating an orphanage, group home or residential school or becoming foster parents is in demand, it is more a labor of love than profit. No matter which way you go, expect to make a significant financial contribution to the children you serve.

Foster parents often bridge the gap between state funds and the actual cost of raising children. Group homes and boarding schools need to seek funding through grants and corporate and individual donors. People who serve in orphanages abroad often find financial support from their religious institutions, while organizations that start them must make a full-time job of soliciting donations to help cover operational costs.