In the dependency court system, a legal orphan is a child whose parents’ rights have been terminated and who has no legal permanent connection to a family. The child remains in foster care and has not been adopted or placed in a legal relationship with a guardian or with kin. A legal orphan may have no legal relationship with her parents’ extended families, might not inherit from his parents or their families, and is effectively a child of the state. With no family connections, these children frequently age-out of the foster care system once they reach adulthood. At that point, they face statistically poor outcomes.
This Technical Assistance Bulletin offers judicial practice recommendations to achieve permanency and improve outcomes for legal orphans.