My goodness. I always felt bad for my father never knowing his parents and growing up in an orphanage. But I feel your Mother in law had a much worse situation.
Very catholic orphanage. Maybe she had not been baptized?
As far as I know - my father and siblings would leave the orphanage at 17 with 2 years of high school. See the last line of this page ....http://www.archeparchy.org/page/history/bishop-america.htm