Losing your parents is no fun. Depending on your circumstances (and the relative benevolence of your creator), you may end up with some clueless but good-natured Muggle Foster Parents, or you could be Raised by Wolves. If you're really unlucky, though — or if you need an appropriately tragic backstory — you'll end up in an Orphanage of Fear.
No one cares for you a smidge when you're living in an Orphanage of Fear. You will usually presided over by gaunt, dour women—often spooky nuns—with nasty sneers. Your chores are long, gruelling and mandatory; toys and other amusements are strictly forbidden. You can expect to be spanked, smacked, and otherwise "punished" frequently; no matter what you do, you can't please the lady in charge. The food is usually unidentifiable, mushy, and foul-smelling if it's solid at all; you may have nothing to eat but thin, probably cold vegetable broth. You will be in bed by 8 and up by 5, and you will never, ever, ever be allowed to have any fun. Your only hope of escaping is either to get adopted, find your real parents (after all, they're probably only hiding), or simply run away. Or kill everyone/destroy the place.
The opposite of an Orphanage of Fear is the Orphanage of Love — a place where you will be cuddled, given plenty of toys, read to before bed, and have all your boo-boos kissed, even if you never get adopted. Although you will rarely find the series' Kid Hero thrust into one of these — right off the bat, anyway — a good way to make a character seem kind or loving is to put them in charge of an Orphanage of Love.
Orphanages have been largely phased out in the western world, but they are still in use in parts of Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, and parts of North America have them if there are no foster homes. Compare Boarding School of Horrors. Sadly, both institutions are still Truth in Television. Read up on conditions in Victorian orphanages some time; current group homes are not always significantly better. Modern orphanages are usually in disrepair. Also compare Department of Child Disservices.
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Anime and Manga
Kinderheim 511, from Monster. It was a heartless and abusive attempt to breed the perfect soldier, through severe physical and psychological abuse and neglect. It meets its end when almost every single person kills themselves in a massive fight, instigated by none other than Johan. The children would do nice things for each other, in a desperate attempt to be remembered. Because they were starting to forget who they were.
In Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, Miyoko Tanishi aka the Big Bad Miyo Takano spends some time in an extreme version of this, as part of her Start of Darkness. It's heavily implied that the kids are tortured and raped on a regular basis by the bitter ex-military staff. In the manga, it's horrifying.
Ironically, this version does not use boney, scary looking nuns of any sort, but instead uses tall, bulky, powerful, huge men who barely even hide their love of putting the children through hell.
Also, in the anime, when Miyo is caught and given to the guard whose finger she had bitten, it is heavily implied that he will either rape her or beat her to death, or both! However, she is saved when Takano arrives to adopt her before the guard can truly lay a hand on her. In the manga, she is shown the tortures all her teammates had gone through, before she undergoes her actual punishment. Here, he defecates into a toilet in front of her before shoving her head in, telling her to clean his crap with her mouth. He then proceeds to rape her, while keeping a sadistic and luscious grin on his face. She is later given to Takano, AFTER the disgusting punishment. Yeah, the manga really doesn't go easy on us. And according to Miyako, she didn't even get to shower or anything afterwards, so Takano picked her up while she was covered in a hulking giant's feces and an ass full of semen. gross.
One of the stories of the Ghost in the Shell manga has Section 9 tackling one of these. It's used for manual labor because the water filters that the kids make are deemed more important than their human rights. It turns out to be a government brainwashing facility that got out of hand, punishing those who try to escape with "ghost-back" or "ghost-out" — cyber-brainwash or death.
Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! claims to have been in one of these. His brother Mokuba didn't seem to mind so much (but then again, hehad a parent).
In the manga, Mokuba definitely seems to have minded—and who knows what Seto managed to keep his little brother from knowing?
Creepy Twins Hansel and Gretel from Black Lagoon grew up in a Romanian version of this trope. This would have been bad enough for them, but after the Romanian government was overthrown and the orphanages were shut down, where they went next was far, FAR worse.
Legato Bluesummers of Trigun has a manga backstory that implies this was a stage of his life, though he could have been in a lot of circumstances before being made a catamite.
Saint Seiya: All the orphans had to deal with this at the Kido Orphanage. They're taken away from normal orphanages by force, forced to train all day long, often beaten by Tatsumi, seen as mere objects and playthings for pre-Character Development!Saori and the place has electric fences, dogs and security guards. Afterwards, they are sent to Training Grounds where 90% of them died at.
Cletus Kasady, the Spider-Man villain better known as Carnage was dumped in one of these after he killed his father for killing his mother (or was it the other way around?). He didn't take it very well.
According to his own narrative in one comic, Kasady's father was sent to jail (and possibly executed) for murdering his mother, who was trying to kill Kasady. Of course, he testified against his dad to seal his fate, and the reason mummy wanted to kill him was because he was testing power tools on her poodle. The poor kid was then sent to live with his grandmother, whom he pushed down the stairs. Something tells me the orphanage was not exactly to blame. (Then again, he's an Unreliable Narrator.)
From the New Gods, Apokolips' Happiness Home, run by Granny Goodness. In spades.
Scott Free (Mister Miracle) grew up in (and broke out of) one of these in his first great act of escape art.
The B. O. Goodley Orphanage, Granny Goodness's Metropolis base in Guardians of Metropolis. According to the Newsboy Legion, it was an Orphanage of Fear before the forces of Apokalips got hold of it.
It was; it appears in one Golden Age Newsboys story.
Mis Pritchard's orphanage in a Max Mercury story set in 1910s New York. Mrs P hates children, but gets money from the city to raise them. She also gets a cut from child-hating toymaker Archimedes Schott, for supplying him with cheap labour. And then she takes the kids' wages as well. When Schott tells her he's going to burn down his factory, because Max has pressurised him into giving the kids more rights, she decides to send them to work that day anyway. (And yes, Archimedes looks a lot like his presumed descendent, Winslow.)
The Orphanage by Carlos Gimenez is a comic detailing the author's childhood in a Spanish orphanage during the civil war. In between the fascist and child-hating teachers and their abusive indoctrination, the sadistic and child-hating caretakers, the half-blind and child-hating doctor and the constant lack of food and water, it's pretty much the epitome of the trope.
The EC Comics story "Halloween" is set in one of these, though the direct childcare person is desperately trying to turn it into an Orphanage of Love, the management tells her there simply isn't enough money for decent food, clothing, lights...and certainly not a jack-o-lantern! Naturally the manager is revealed as having kept two-thirds of the orphanage's income for his own personal benefit...and then the children get their jack-o-lantern.
Naruto fanfiction tends to use this, since if no one cared about Naruto, he would have had to have gone to an orphanage due to being an orphan. It's not known whether there was an actual Orphanage of Fear in the series, but given the status of Jinchuuriki, it doesn't seem at all unlikely.
Not to mention, he was living by himself at the age of like twelve at the beginning of the series—it certainly seems to imply there was a place he couldn't get away from fast enough.
Sailor Moon fanfiction tended to paint Mamoru's childhood home as one of these, at least in the early days. At least one fanfictionlampshaded this assumption by stating that Mamoru actually had it pretty good in the orphanage what with charity and donations, so he doesn't get why all the girls think he had a terrible childhood there.
Within the fandom for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, many fanfiction writers take advantage of the fact that Scootaloo of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who accompanies the younger sisters of two other characters, has no visible family or home to portray her as an orphan. As such, Scootaloo is frequently depicted as either living in one of these or having run away to Ponyville in order to avoid living in one. This, combined with stories about Scootaloo having abusive parents have resulted in the creation of an entire subgenre within the fandom dubbed Scootabuse.
The Homestuck fanfiction He Has A Name has Dave grow up in a particularly nasty example. Not only are the staff oppressive and dickish, but the children there are also being used as prostitutes. In Dave's case, this means that while staying there he was raped every night of his life from the age of about six and ended up a Cute Mute from the trauma.
The Spanish horror movie El orfanato ("The Orphanage"). The movie is actually about a woman returning to an orphanage years after she grew up there.
Although according to her, she was actually happy at the orphanage, and all the kids saw each other as one big happy family. Until they got on Benigna's bad side, that is.
Despite the best intentions of the staff the orphanage in The Devils Backbone is an Orphanage of Fear thanks to the Spanish civil war, dwindling resources, and a ghost, but mostly the return of a now adult orphan.
In the film Courage Mountain, the main character and her friends are sent to an Orphanage of Fear when their boarding school is closed down because of World War II.
The Catholic orphanage in The Boys of St. Vincent and The Boys of St. Vincent — 15 Years Later definitely fits the bill.
Then there's the Catholic girls' "asylum" in The Magdalene Sisters, made all the scarier in that it's based on Real Life institutions.
The orphanage in Slumdog Millionaire definitely qualifies. The seemingly kind owner drugs and blinds a boy so he'll earn more money busking.
While not technically an orphanage, the juvenile detention facility House of Refuge from Newsies qualifies; the corrupt warden bribes judges to condemn orphans to imprisonment there so he can pocket the money the government gives him to take care of them.
The Rainbow Room orphanage from RoboCop is a good example. The director of the orphanage is more concerned with making commercials to earn money than taking care of the kids.
Lt. Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cromwell's Sharpe series grew up in this as a child. In the second book, it is written that despite twenty years and a battle regiment, Sharpe still has PTSD when he returns and faces the orphanage master. If that weren't enough, the children are served gruel. Of course, he savagely murders said orphanage master... right in front of a little orphaned girl no less before proceeding to the main plot, so I guess the second book brutally explores this trope front, back, and sideways.
It's made even worse in the TV adaptation, in which the matron finds out that Nelly and her sisters escaped with Samantha and promptly steals money that was donated for the orphans and plans to pin the theft on the girls. Fortunately, Samantha's aunt and uncle don't believe a word of it.
Anne of Green Gables, too. Slight subversion: Anne mentions that the staff meant well, and she wasn't abused, but it was a cold and dreary place where no one was loved.
For Anne, though, the orphanage was often the better option than living with some of the many families she grew up with. Not only was she only "adopted" to take care of other people's children, but often these families didn't have enough to feed and clothe themselves (let alone Anne), and a few of the fathers were implied to be mean drunks.
In the Molly Moon series, Molly begins her life in one of these. However, at the end of the first book, it becomes an Orphanage of Love.
In the Spellsinger books, one city orphanage is considered a great place with well behaved kids. Jon-Tom discovers it is an Orphanage of Fear with every child required to be "perfect". The food is great and healthy, however any misbehavior is whipped and all kids have their sexual organs (castration, etc) removed because sex isn't "perfect".
Philip Pullman's Spring-Heeled Jack includes the trio of orphaned protagonists escaping from one of these. The ones who run it pursue them relentlessly, because they don't get paid unless the orphanage is full to capacity.
Pullman likes this trope — the Bolvangar installation in The Golden Compass is an especially nasty variation. Seems exactly like, if not an Orphanage of Love, a fairly middle-of-the-road boarding school (except for being situated in the middle of the Arctic); functions as a laboratory facility.
The protagonist of the V. C. Andrews novel Child of Darkness begins the story in one of these.
The Working House for Young Women, from the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment, was one of these, with three characters having escaped from it, all of them pretty damaged. One lives on a hair trigger, one became a pyromaniac, and one thinks that the Duchess, the deified ruler of their country, talks to her. As it turns out she does, and eventually reveals her presence. The first two, though, become bank robbers, and come back and burn the place down near the end.
Played With in Harry Potter—Voldemort grew up in a Muggle orphanage that Harry thinks is "grim," but the overworked staff is clearly taking care of the kids' needs as best they can. The worst thing about it is actually Voldemort (then called Tom) himself, an Enfant Terrible who uses his undeveloped magic to traumatize his peers, even if the staff can never figure out how he does it.
Played with in the third book. Aunt Marge declares that Harry should be grateful to the Dursleys for taking him as he would have gone straight to an orphanage if he'd been dumped on her doorstop. Harry's unspoken retort is that he'd rather live in an orphanage than with the Dursleys.
The Kite Runner had one of these, though it was more the fault of the setting (Taliban-occupied Afghanistan) than any malevolence on the part of the owners.
Peppermints in the Parlor, Sparrows in the Scullery, Twin in the Tower, and anything else Barbara Brooks Wallace ever wrote. She has one of the worst habits of self-plagiarism around, and that's neglecting the obvious influence from Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess (which is only an Orphanage Of Fear for the main character and the chimneysweep, being a fairly standard stodgy boarding school for everyone who can pay the bills).
And whipping them the whole time. While they're naked and unprotected, mind you.
The Sunlight Home from The Talisman probably qualifies, with boys who don't love Jesus enough being beaten, locked in a tiny shed or even killed. Inspired the Ash song "Jack Names The Planets".
In Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs, Jerusha "Judy" Abbot grows up in a borderline example of the trope, John Grier House. The employers weren't directly abusive and the kids had what they basically needed thanks to the sponsors, but it was still far from an Orphanage of Love and there was a lot of emotional/intellectual neglect of them. She's still smart and lucky enough to have one of the well-meaning sponsors, the titular DDL ( aka Jervis Pendleton, local Bunny-Ears Lawyer and The Casanova), send her to a local college. They meet in person, fall in love and get married.
In The Declaration by Gemma Malley, Surpluses, or children born to people taking the immortality drug, are put in these. They are often told they do not deserve to exist and have futures as servants. The main character, Anna, escapes with the help of a boy named Peter. They are allowed to stay out of the group home because both Anna's parents died, and Peter's father died, and the only way to get out of the homes is if one person in your family dies. That way, you're not adding more people to the world.
The Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys in The Supernaturalist qualifies. The institute gets the money for the boys' maintenance by making them test all kinds of products.
This trope is not as common in Roald Dahl's books as one might think, but Sophie from The BFG used to live in one of these. And the treatment that James Henry Trotter gets from his aunts is pretty much equal to it.
The children's home in the second half of "The Last Elf" is pretty much this- no food, horrible 'caretakers' and so on. The children are told all day long about how their parents were selfish, horrible people and they deserved to die. Robi doesn't quite believe it.
St. Aegolius' Academy for Orphaned Owls in the Guardians Of Ga'Hoole series is a pretty good example; stealing hundreds of eggs and owlets and going on to indoctrinate them through brainwashing techniques, completely erasing their sense of self, fiercely punishing any who ask any questions, forcing them to do labor such as picking through pellets and organizing what is found in them, and so on...
Also, one of the owls in charge eats owl eggs.
Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. Although the protagonists aren't mistreated in their government-run orphanage, all the children are indoctrinated to become patriotic Cannon Fodder for the US military.
In Allison Croggon's Books Of Pellinor series, the main character's younger brother (and the main character of book three) Hem grew up in a terrible orphanage in a corrupt and rotting town. It came complete with dismal living spaces, horribly abusive adults, murderously petty and emotionally scared children, all capped off with the disturbingly common instances of death by starvation or murder- because of the fierceness of the other children.
Thursday's Child, by Noel Streatfeild. St. Luke's Orphanage is run by "Matron" who steals from the children to enrich herself, and is physically abusive. After she leaves, it becomes an Orphanage of Love, due to the influence of Lady Corkberry.
Faraway Dream, by Jane Flory. Seafarers Safe Harbor for Orphans is run by Mrs. Dempey, who is physically abusive and lazy.
The "boarding school" to which Charlotte Sophia is sent first in Edward Gorey's The Hapless Child.
The "Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans" in A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz.
"Thrift House", run by the corrupt and abusive Mrs. Spindletrap in The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow, by Kaye Umansky.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss says that if it was ever discovered that their mother was depressed and couldn't take care of them, she and her sister Prim would be sent to the community home. The kids who live there always look sad, and Katniss was afraid it would crush Prim's spirit, so she began providing for the family herself to cover up her mother's illness.
As Simon aptly describes it in The Witch Watch, Ravenstead Acadeny takes in orphans and teaches them to fear Lord Mordaunt.
''"Were they kind to you?" McLean regretted the question the minute it was asked. "I don't know," answered Freckles. The reply sounded so hopeless, even to his own ears, that he hastened to qualify it by adding: "You see, it's like this, sir. Kindnesses that people are paid to lay off in job lots and that belong equally to several hundred others, ain't going to be soaking into any one fellow so much." . . . ."When I was too old for the training they gave to the little children, they sent me to the closest ward school as long as the law would let them; but I was never like any of the other children, and they all knew it. I'd to go and come like a prisoner, and be working around the Home early and late for me board and clothes. I always wanted to learn mighty bad, but I was glad when that was over. "
In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, Mickey's mother had raised him to be able to look after himself because otherwise he would be taken to the home. When he meets Peaches after her granny died, other boarders are talking of how the girl will be taken to the home, and she's terrified.
Live Action TV
On an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a wealthy man embroiled in a custody dispute is found murdered in his home. It eventually comes out that he was killed by his adopted sons, over whom he was engaged in a custody dispute: they had been raised in an Eastern European Orphanage of Fear, and their mother had tried to turn them against him by telling them that he would send them back if he got custody.
Not orphanages per se, but the group homes for unplaced foster children on The Wire are complete hellholes. Said to be the source of Laetitia's anger, and later shown to be where Randy's youthful innocence goes to die.
Made even worse later when you realize the little girl living there was young Melody Pond/River Song.
Smallville: Granny Goodness gets another mention for her orphanage in "Abandoned", St. Louise's Orphanage. The place is made of pure horror, as scared young girls are psychologically abused (and it's heavily implied if not outright stated that they are beaten as well) and forcibly re-programmed into sadistic soliders-in-training to pave the way for Darkseid's coming invasion of the Earth, sometimes by being blood-thirsty assassins, but sometimes by becoming sleeper agents and penetrating the Earth's upper institutions to secretly spy on them and destabilize them for Darkseid, the revelation of which ends up being Paranoia Fuel among the good guys in-universe. What makes it even scarier is the possibility that St. Louise's used to be a regular orphanage until Granny Goodness showed up one day and took over. When Tess rediscovers the place—which is where she grew up—a whole montage of very disturbing repressed memories play out on-screen.
What makes the place even more disturbing is that Granny Goodness is very much a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, and Faux Affably Evil to boot. She forcibly (and, by all accounts, painfully) erases the memories of the girls in her care so that they have no memory of their Parental Abandonment. And if she is forced to let one of her girls leave the orphanage, as is what happened in Tess's case, she also erases their memory of the orphanage completely. The entire first few years of Tess's life were completely eradicated, only popping back up as nightmares after Granny wanted her back twenty-five years later.
In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a mother who is completely paranoid raised her children to believe that they would go to a Orphanage Of Fear where they would be raped and murdered if they were ever taken away from her. Her son is then convinced that they were going there so she has him kill his brother and then commit suicide, but for him the gun jammed.
On Once Upon a Time, Emma and Pinocchio end up in one of these when they're transported from the fairy tale world to the real world.
Little Orphan Annie: Annie started out in one of these. In the comic strip, the orphanage director was named Miss Asthma, not Miss Hannigan as in the musical and subsequent film adaptations.
Exalted gives us the orphanage run by the Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils. Just how bad can you make an orphanage? Well, if it's run by one of the Deathlords... and she's the one who made them orphans in the first place... and she's basically using it as a backup plan in case her favored Deathknight gets killed in the field... pretty damn bad.
Not to mention that the previous orphans in the orphanage were the parents of the current ones, and the toys the orphans play with are made out of their parents' souls. It's not very nice in general.
Oh, and another thing? She started this after the Great Contagion...which is to say, several centuries before the first Deathknights. Before then? She was just entertaining herself.
Annie is definitely one of the most famous examples of this, perhaps surpassed only by Oliver Twist. One of the musical's most famous songs, "It's the Hard Knock Life", is all about this trope.
Halloween Horror Nights 2010 features a house called The Orfanage, which is a prequel to the popular Screamhouse series revolving around the Caretaker, Albert Caine. The Orfanage features his daughter, fan favorite ex-icon Cindy, before her adoption in an orphanage where she and the other students were tortured until Cindy's latent pyrokinetic powers allowed her to free the children and burn down the orphanage. The house has you going through the burnt-down remains of the orphanage, facing the (ghosts of?) children and Cindy, with a spectacular scene involving fire roaring next to the window you walk by.
The Shalebridge Cradle from Thief: Deadly Shadows.
The Cradle started out as a dedicated orphanage. Then when financial problems struck, it was sold to people who turned it into an asylum for the criminally insane. Out of the goodness of their hearts, the doctors allowed the orphans to remain there. So to clarify, The Cradle was an Orphanage of Fear and a Bedlam Housesimultaneously. Then it burned down with both children and lunatics inside. Then the building developed sentience and imprisoned the souls of the children and inmates inside itself so it could play with them... For all eternity.
The Silent Hill cult ran one of these, where they brainwashed the children into new members. One of the areas you go to in Silent Hill 4 is subtly implied to be part of it — a mysterious cylindrical outbuilding alluded to in earlier games, then again here in case you forgot.
Well, originally its evil was pretty banal. Then came Wendy, and brought in a good helping of imaginative cruelty.
Battle Arena Toshinden 3 makes mention of the Organization's brands of orphanages setup all across the world. Their function? A shelter for children and youths, and a holding place for their blood required black occult magic rituals at night. Fridge Horror abound.
Shadow Hearts has Jack's orphanage. Jack was creepy before he got his hands on the Emigre Manuscript. Now he sees the kids as ingredients. Unfortunately for him, one of the kids sent to it is a friend of Halley's, and Halley gets Yuri and allies involved... If you visit the orphanage after the story events, you learn it's now run by a woman who plans to make it an Orphanage of Love.
Painkiller features the ultimate Orphanage Of Fear, full of undead psychopathic children, a butcher with no feet and sad children in sacks who explode.
The orphanage in the Elven Alienage in Dragon Age: Origins. It's an example because it was overrun by demons that massacred everyone inside, leaving nothing but insane ghosts.
Oh no, it's much worse than that. The people in the orphanage were massacred during The Purge ordered by Arl Howe. The demons and ghosts only arrived after the horrific bloodshed and lingering feelings of pain and rage tore a hole in the Veil.
In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, Honorhall Orphanage in Riften is run by a terrible old woman called Grelod the Kind. She constantly gives speeches to the kids about how worthless they are and that they wont be adopted, ever. The kids themselves tell you that beatings are frequent and snooping around the building reveals that there is a cell with shackles on the wall. The kind normally seen in prisons. Grelod also starves the children by giving them only one meal a day in the afternoon. She even keeps them from being adopted — she's that much of a power-hungry Control Freak. It's so bad, that one of the kids escaped and tried to recruit The Dark Brotherhood to kill Grelod. You can pretend to be from the Brotherhood and kill Grelod yourself. The children will cheer and praise the Dark Brotherhood. Needless to say, the Dark Brotherhood is not happy about this.
In BioShock there is the Little Sister Orphanage, which is really a front for little girls to be used in science experiments.
Arc The Lad 2 gives us the White House: unlike most exemples of this trope, the kids are not openly mistreated by uncaring or sadistic by the people in charge (in fact, one of its former managers, Vilmer is shown to be a descent, loving grandfather), but when the employees are pretty much on Cthulhu's payroll, you know that the facility hides very dark, horrific secrets, and oh boy does it not disapoint: the orphans (which were forcingly taken from their family at best, witnesses of their families slaughter and people's genocide at worst) are kept complient by being forced to take "control medecines" suspicously similar to rape drugs which pretty much end up wiping their memories -the protagonist had amnesia for the better part of a decade thanks to them-, until they are dissected (chairs equipped with huge rotating saws are found in the basement)... if they are lucky: if they are unlucky, the paid-by-the-local-Cthulhu scientists overseeing the orphanage will use a mix of genetic engineering and dark magics which will turn the kids into sentient monsters whose free-will will then be overriden by powerful mind-control devices.
The Orphanage in the The Sims 2, which is for both orphans and children removed by social workers, appears to be this: it seems to be like Oliver Twist... or worse.
A number of the main characters of Dreamkeepers live in an orphanage run by Grunn, an angry shark who hates kids and is probably only doing it as a cover.
In Futurama, Leela grew up in Cookieville, a minimum-security orphanarium. With a warden. Who used to tell her, daily, that she's worthless and no one will ever love her. And there are bars on the windows. By her own account, the best day ever of her entire life was Double Soup Tuesday at the orphanarium.
Although she is shown laughing about it all later, with the very same warden, and looks on this time of her life with some fondness.
Leela: Just like old times. Gosh. The bars on the windows seemed so much thicker back then. Mr. Vogel? Remember me?
Warden: Leela! You're worthless and no-one will ever love you!
(They laugh and hug)
Leela: You used to say that all the time!
Warden: Oh, those were happier days.
Also, there was an episode where Warden Vogel tried to take the kids ice-skating in Central Park, and seemed genuinely saddened when he was forced to cancel the field trip.
The opening credits of The Replacements imply that Riley and Todd used to live in one of these.
In Time Squad, Otto lived in an orphanage ran by a cruel nun who used the children that were in her care for cheap labor and kept them well underfed and is shown to be able to willingly physically harm children with a whip.
In Wakko's Wish, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot lived in one of these for a time.
In Despicable Me, Margo, Edith and Agnes live in one of these. If they don't make their quota selling cookies they are banished to the "box of shame".
The Christmas SpecialThe Christmas Tree is set in one these, where the lady in charge gambles away the orphanage's money on a regular basis. It's so bad, the children latch onto a huge pine tree for emotional comfort.
A young girl named Olivia and her best friends the Chipettes from Alvin And The Chipmunks grew together in one of these in Australia, managed by the evil Mrs. Grudge. When Olivia is lucky enough to be adopted, Grudge kidnaps and locks the Chipettes away so she won't be able to take them with her, intending to make money off the three little chipmunk girls. They barely manage to escape and then hide in a ship sailing to the USA...
In American Dad, Francine used to live in an orphanage before her Chinese parents adopted her. In that orphanage, any time she tried to use her left hand (being naturally left-handed) the nuns would smack her with a fish.
Which is a reference to a now rarer practice of forcing people to be right handed that was once common in Catholic schools, and also happened in some secular schools.
In The Marvelous Misadventures Of Flapjack, Flapjack gets sent to one in "Oh, You Animal". Well the caretaker was actually a good person and just wanted to protect, even adopt Flapjack. But what made it horrifying was the fact that the other orphaned boys were actually grown men disguising as little boys so they could have free meals and a roof over their head, and Flapjack being the only real kid in the place they bully him mercilessly.
In the Arthur episode "Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight", Arthur and D.W. fear their parents may be getting a divorce and worry that they will be abandoned. Cue Oliver Twist-inspired Imagine Spot.
Arthur: We have to avoid going to an orphanage at all costs, especially one set in the 1800's.
The orphanage in Tigress's story in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five qualifies. They feared her and she was left alone and ashamed, but with some help by Master Shifu, Tigress managed to learn to control herself and turned the place into an Orphanage of Love.