i'm very interested that this was brought up. it seems to me that kids get the rough end of the pineapple in many things, including language. orphan seems to be being (is that a tense - please tell me!) replaced with sentences like "his parents have died", or even more oblique ones "he lives with his grandparents. but i think, with all respect to your situation, michaelo, it's not as common these days for both parents to die and leave children.
using the word orphan would seem to be a lead in to a sweeping saga, and perhaps there were so many of these, and too many parodies like G and S, that milked its pathos for effect, that the word can't be used without those connotations any more.
a junior high school boy killed himself in japan this week (not before writing "help" in english on the phone message pad at home). his principal suggested he was easily bullied and seemed not to take it seriously.
i really believe that children are one of the groups yet to be liberated. we use animal sounding words for them: kid, ankle biter; whereas words like bird, bunny are clearly seen as derogatory for women, pillow biter an insult to gays. adults think "kid" is cute, but no children like to be called that.
and we silence them with "when you're older" or "you're too young to understand", if they even try to use our own language against us.
not to mention forced congregation in "schools".
words can change but only after attitudes change. in fact words are probably a clear indication of our attitudes.
jackie, since you have some experience in this field, why is it we can still get away with treating children in ways we couldn't treat other people?