An amazingly large number of children in the media suffer from Parental Abandonment. Other children are "lucky enough" to have both parents, but unfortunately live in worlds where there are no Happily Married families. For most such children, life is an endless series of disappointments and let-downs. A lucky few, though, manage to find a Parental Substitute.
A Parental Substitute is an adult friend who fills the children's lonely life with guidance and (often) love. They guide the child and teach them how to stand on their own feet, how to have fun, and how to not be so bothered by the fact that Mommy or Daddy are never around (or ignore them). If the parents in question are dead, they may have known them and are able to answer when the child says Tell Me About My Father. They often tell the kid they are So Proud of You. Usually, by the end of the story, the Parental Substitute leaves as well, but at that point the kid is able to stand on their own two feet.
This trope is often a feature of Tear Jerkers, especially if it follows Take Care of the Kids. If it's an older sibling who's taken over the parental role, that's Promotion to Parent. The Old Retainer may take over this role in event that his employer's children are suffering from Parental Abandonment. If an entire society has teens become parental substitutes, that's a Teenage Wasteland. If the child gets into a big argument with the substitute, expect to hear "You're Not My Father" by the time things get really heated.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Western Animation
- In The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird, the princes and princess are raised by a deer, which oddly enough does not produce Raised by Wolves. Then, kind-hearted fairies provided her, so perhaps it was magic.
- Fish, for Eggs in The Boxtrolls. Eggs indirectly calls the boxtroll his father at one point.
- The Iron Giant: Dean McCoppin's a father-figure/mentor to Hogarth, whose actual father was a pilot in the American Airforce (and was presumably killed in the Korean War). Hogarth himself has a fatherly/big-brother relationship to the giant robot in the title, who has the mentality of a very young child.
- Baloo acts as this to Mowgli in The Jungle Book for the brief time they are together. Prior to him, he was Raised by Wolves, his adoptive father Rama even referring to him as being "like a real son".
- Bagheera also takes on a fatherly role with Mowgli, in the live action remake it's pretty much established Mowgli cares for him as a father, maybe even more than Akela or his biological father.
- Though Hiccup's father is alive and well in How to Train Your Dragon, it's Hiccup's boss Gobber the Belch who, despite being frustrated with the boy's overall clumsiness and uselessness, is nevertheless supportive and protective of the boy. He urges Hiccup to be happy with who he is, pressures Hiccup's father to let the boy train to fight dragons when it's clear that's what he wants to do, and even defends the boy from the bullies. He's harsh and Innocently Insensitive with his encouragement, but he genuinely means well.
- In Kung Fu Panda, Shifu is to Tai Lung and later Tigress, and Mr. Ping to Po.
- Lilo & Stitch:
- Nani tries to be this for Lilo after their parents death. It's hard for both of them.
- In the sequels and TV show, Jumba and Pleakley end up as this too in a weird sort of way; Nani has no problems leaving Lilo and Stitch with "Uncle Jumba" and "Aunt Pleakley" when she's busy. David could end up as this (or at least a Big Brother Mentor) since he hang out with them a lot as well and gets Ship Tease with Nani.
- In Titan A.E., the Parental Substitute relationship between Kale and Korso is made even more complicated by the fact that Korso is The Mole.
- Silver is a mentor and father-figure to Jim in Treasure Planet. Considering how the story goes, is one of the more turbulent examples, but it all worked out in the most satisfying way possible.
- Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are the mother figures to Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. While Aurora's mother never died, she did grow up without her mother close to her, so it fell on the fairies' hand to raise the child well. Aurora calls the three her aunts, tho.
- In Downton Abbey
Mr. Mason: So, will you be my daughter? Will you let me take you into my heart, make you special? You'll have parents of your own, of course.Daisy: I haven't got any parents. Not like that. I've never been special to anyone.Mr. Mason: Except William.Daisy: That's right. I were only ever special to William. Never thought of it like that.Mr. Mason: Well, no you're special to me.
- Mr. Mason becomes Daisy's replacement parent after Daisy marries Mason's son, William, on his deathbed.
Mrs. Patmore (to Daisy): If you were my own daughter, I couldn't be prouder than I am now.
- Mrs. Patmore to Daisy
- Greek Mythology:
- The philandering Zeus fathered a number of sons, none of which he actually helped raise. Some of them were lucky enough to find substitute father figures who took care of them: Heracles was raised by Amphitryon, his mother's mortal husband, while Perseus was raised by the fisherman Dictys, who took his mother Danae in when she was abandoned by her own father, and Dionysus was raised by his maternal aunt Ino and her husband Athamas, who Zeus gave to them to take care of so his jealous wife Hera wouldn't find out about his affair.
- Zeus himself was raised on a secluded island by nymphs, a goat, and his grandmother Gaia. He liked the goat best—enough to make it the constellation Capricorn after its death.
- In Norse Mythology, Odin sometimes comes off as this to Loki in some stories (most likely the reason behind Loki becoming his adopted son in the Marvel Comics version). While Odin often threatened him allowed others to punish Loki for his mischief, the two shared a blood pact which made Odin always treat him as an extension of himself, basically making Loki his child. Kinda sad that he then had to bind him to a boulder as punishment for making some mean comments/killing Baldr, driving Loki insane and turning him against the Aesir, leading to Ragnarok.
- In WHO dunnit, Trixie sees her father's business partner, Tony, as a substitute dad after her real father disappears in an auto accident.
- On the 2016 Road To Best In The World Silas Young took it upon himself to act as ACH's father after coming to the conclusion his seven year old son was more of a man than ACH. ACH was offended, already having a good relationship with his biological father.
- In Henry IV Falstaff likes to think that he is this to Hal. If anything, it is the other way round, at least in Henry IV Part 1, where Hal is usually the one deciding what they're going to do, protecting Falstaff when he's in danger from the police, and telling him off when he behaves inappropriately. This makes Hal's rejection of Falstaff at the end of Henry IV Part 2 a devastating example of Parental Abandonment.
- Into the Woods: Cinderella becomes one for Little Red Riding Hood and probably for Jack too.
- In Philoctetes, Neoptolemus is mostly a good guy who is lacking in guidance. While Odysseus first takes on this role for him, Philoctetes becomes a more sincere parental figure to him by the end.
- George Washington is this for the protagonist, which causes no small amount of taunts from Hamilton's enemies. (It should be noted that, historically, Washington was aso a father figure to Lafayette and John Laurens.) Hamilton actually resents Washington's paternal feelings since he's got a lot of Daddy Issues, and it causes a major rift in "Meet Me Inside."
- The older Mulligan also says that he stands in loco parentis for Hamilton, Laurens, and Lafayette.
- Several cases take place in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series:
- In Justice For All, it's revealed that Phoenix's mentor Mia Fey left her little sister Maya in their aunt Morgan's care when she left the village to search for her and Maya's mother Misty. The sisters were unaware of Morgan's jealousy toward Misty and her daughters, and were very upset to find out that their beloved aunt would try to frame Maya for murder, so her own Child Prodigy daughter Pearl would be the heir.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials & Tribulations Bikini is this for Iris.
- In Investigations 2, Hakari Mikagami becomes Shimon Aizawa's adoptive mother after the death of his mother, Ami. His father, the real president of Zheng Fa, is already dead.
- In RWBY, after their mother didn't return from a mission and was presumed dead, Yang became a mother figure for her younger sister Ruby.
- Said mother was actually Yang's stepmother, who raised her after her biological mother walked out almost immediately after she was born.
- In True Tail, a giant brute bear named Brutus looks after a small young kitten named Caleb. Caleb is also an orphan, so in this series, a bear is the closet thing the kitten has to a protective father.
- Pierce filled this role for troubled teenager Kate Bishop in Dino Attack RPG, at least until it turned out he actually was her father.
- Over the years, Bartholomew Enderson became a father figure to Silencia Venomosa, or at least the closest she had to a father since the murder of her parents.
- Greybeard inadvertently became a Grandparental Substitute to Mary Rose, especially because she was too young to realize that he is not actually her grandfather.
- In the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions Artsy-Fartsy became the substitute mom to Mysterious Waif Quito Power.
- Mirrorfall - Ryan for Stef, starts referring to her as his daughter in the third book.
- Because Bowser is usually in the other room watching his favorite Show Within a Show, Charleyyy and Friends, Chef Pee Pee is usually the one watching his son, Junior.
- Mario becomes this to Jeffy in all of Jeffy's appearances (excluding "Bowser Junior's Playtime 4", "Pokémon Part 6", "Bowser Junior's Game Night 4", and "The Dog Show!"), because Jeffy's mother was too annoyed by him and didn't want to deal with him any further.