Little Strangers: Portrayals of Adoption and Foster Care in by Claudia Nelson

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By Claudia Nelson

Whilst Massachusetts handed America's first accomplished adoption legislations in 1851, the standard rationale for taking in an unrelated baby was once presumed to be the necessity for inexpensive hard work. yet via 1929 -- the 1st yr that each country had an adoption legislations -- the adoptee's major functionality used to be visible as emotional. Little Strangers examines the representations of adoption and foster care produced over the intervening years. Claudia Nelson argues that adoption texts replicate altering attitudes towards many very important social matters, together with immigration and poverty, heredity and atmosphere, individuality and citizenship, gender, and the family members. She examines orphan fiction for kids, journal tales and articles, criminal writings, social paintings convention complaints, and discussions of heredity and baby psychology. Nelson's formidable scope offers for an research of the level to which expert and mainstream adoption discourse overlapped, in addition to the ways that adoption and foster care had captivated the general public mind's eye.

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Extra resources for Little Strangers: Portrayals of Adoption and Foster Care in America, 1850-1929

Example text

One of Brace’s major reasons for opposing orphanages was that “the skills they taught had little practical use” (Orphan Trains), and the idea that the tenement child should learn to work was always paramount for him. Looking back on twenty years as a reformer, he wrote that “the principle throughout all the operations of the Children’s Aid Society, is . . to discourage pauperism, to cherish independence, to place the poorest of the city . . on farms, where they support themselves and add to the wealth of the nation .

H. Mills, who in criticizing the Society for careless placements asserted, “Men needing labor, their slaves being set free, take these boys and treat them as slaves” (Orphan Trains). As late as 1940, one Roman Catholic orphanage in Boston engaged in an informal system of fosterchild placement established in 1890 and known as the “parish slave auction” (Holloran 103). In short, although Brace reiterated that his charges should work in order to be independent, other writers had a tendency to see such children in terms of chattel.

As is emphatically not the case with such later literary orphans as Pollyanna, her main task is to improve herself rather than the wider community, here usually depicted as either too good to need her ministrations or too unregenerate to succumb to them. In this, she again resembles Brace’s vision of the displaced child as morally needy, although her class affiliations and the fact that she is twice taken in by blood relatives distinguish her from the clientele of the Children’s Aid Society and other child-saving organizations.

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