What Happened to the Lost Boys: A Discussion About Abandoned Children in J.M. Barrie’s Neverland and Beyond

…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:40, NIV

I’ve always been a bit curious–and sad–about what happened to the lost boys in Neverland. Were these poor children abandoned by their parents? Were they kidnapped? Were they orphans? And when Peter Pan leaves the island, do they feel abandoned once more? In this post, we discuss the issue of orphaned children and what we can do to make a difference in their lives.

There are several versions of the classic J.M. Barrie tale and the adventures of Peter Pan. According to the author, the lost boys are children who fell out of their strollers when their nannies weren’t looking and were then whisked away to live in Neverland after they were unclaimed for seven days. These lost children were always boys because, according to Barrie, girls were too clever to get lost that way (though they do in some of the stories).

I think the idea that a child could be missed for seven days suggests the child likely was an orphan.

There are several stories that suggest the boys come and go off the island as they show signs of growing up or desiring to do so. For a full history of the story as it has been told through film and prequels like the Starcatcher series, check out this website.

Though J.M. Barrie wrote about the lost boys based off of real boys he had befriended personally, I have to wonder what happens to the lost boys–and girls–today. What happens to orphans when they become orphans?

I’ve heard horror stories of orphans being abused and neglected first by their biological parents and then by the guardians and system of care that is supposed to protect them. These stories were shared with me firsthand by the orphans themselves as adults in my classroom.

One child remembered being taken from her abusive parents in the middle of the night with nothing but a black trash bag to hurriedly gather her belongings. She didn’t understand that her addicted parents were doing something to her that they shouldn’t. She didn’t know she was being neglected. Therefore, she spent a lot of years bouncing around the system and trying to call her abusers every chance she could get. They would try to manipulate her into getting the money and supplies to continue their addictions. Even when she realized that they were asking her to do something wrong, she still called them. She so desperately wanted their validation of her worth.

Another child remembered being removed from a neglectful home only to end up in a foster home where the fosters pocketed their government aid, kept too many children, and provided minimal food and necessities for them. In this scenario, the heroes became villains as well. Children were left to grow up fast and find creative ways to provide for themselves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127:3-5, NIV

How many times do adults treat children like burdens, free labor, or worse with little to no consideration of the heritage they are building in them?

How many times do we see examples of adult selfishness playing out on the values of younger generations we see in the groceries stores and streets today?

Many of the orphans I have talked to describe their feelings like being on a rollercoaster. They lash out at people that treat them kindly because they don’t know who to trust and they fear being abandoned again. Because a child’s sense of safety and self-worth comes from their parents and these kids had toxic parents, many of them never found the understanding and sense of belonging they needed to become healthy, balanced adults.

What could we do to make a difference in just one life like this today?


There is good news! Not every lost boy and girl stayed in that place of abandonment.

I have a friend that grew up in a Christian orphanage not far from me. He doesn’t talk about his birth family, but he talks about life in the orphanage and the people that poured into him. You can read more about him and his story on his blog. 

Despite what others experienced, my friend was loved in his orphanage. Employees that saw their job as an opportunity to minister gave him hope and life when his own life “sucked”. He found hope and faith in Jesus, and he became a Christian. Then he realized that he wanted to be a pastor.

Two weeks before his sixteenth birthday, he was adopted by a prominent pastor and his wife. His new family showed him love and kindness. He found a sense of belonging and purpose through his faith and his adopted family. The family mentored him in the career path he would later pursue and introduced him to the woman who would later be the wife and mother of his children. God was looking out for this little lost boy!

Do you know a lost boy or a lost girl?

What can you do to speak hope and life into their world today?