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

By Claudia Nelson

While Massachusetts handed America's first accomplished adoption legislation in 1851, the standard rationale for taking in an unrelated baby was once presumed to be the necessity for inexpensive exertions. yet via 1929 -- the 1st 12 months that each kingdom 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 mirror altering attitudes towards many vital social matters, together with immigration and poverty, heredity and setting, individuality and citizenship, gender, and the kinfolk. She examines orphan fiction for kids, journal tales and articles, criminal writings, social paintings convention lawsuits, and discussions of heredity and baby psychology. Nelson's formidable scope presents for an research of the level to which professional 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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17 To be sure, as a writer of the 1880s rather than the 1850s, Ford is more likely to focus on evidence of emotional bonding between foster parent and child. Thus this article describes the pleasures and pastimes arranged by the former for the latter in much more detail than is accorded to the description of any chores the children might perform. 18 As we shall see, the Society, too, came to emphasize sentiment and de-emphasize work in its discussions of child placement. But in a larger sense, both work and sentiment were always only different means to the same end.

Given this fixation on class, it is not surprising that the debate surrounding displaced children was often couched in financial terms, although the questions being discussed differed. Proponents of placing out often viewed it as a mechanism whereby unproductive children—unproductive not because they were luxury items but because they lived in a sphere too degraded to have accepted the work ethic—might be made productive, learning to pay for their own upkeep not only during their minority but also as adults.

18 As we shall see, the Society, too, came to emphasize sentiment and de-emphasize work in its discussions of child placement. But in a larger sense, both work and sentiment were always only different means to the same end. The real “work” of child placement, from the child-saver’s point of view, was the salvation of America itself. The 1850s and Their Echoes 31 When we consider The Wide, Wide World and the rhetoric of the New York Children’s Aid Society side by side, several common elements emerge.

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