Sunday, March 24, 2013

Adoption History: Georgia Tann

Credit: K. Dahlquist & R. Bangert

My thanks to K. Dahlquist & R. Bangert for creating the above graphic and for granting me permission to share it here. I have in fact been doing some research lately, and I was surprised by what I learned.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let's Stop Shaming Teen Parents

In our current societal structure, there is a gap between the typical age of first sexual activity and the age of financial and emotion stability that is considered ideal for beginning a family. What's the solution?

The New York Human Resources Administration appears to have decided recently that the answer was to unleash a campaign of shame against teen parents. If you are not already aware of the controversy surrounding the advertisements in New York, I invite you to check out the following articles:
  1. NYC Teen Pregnancy Campaign Brings Shaming to Bus Shelters and Cell Phone
  2. New York City Tries to Shame Its Teens Into Not Having Babies
  3. Activists Launch Campaign Against NYC’s Teen Pregnancy Ads
  4. An Update on NYCHRA's Teen Mom Shaming
This seems like an appropriate time to step back and get some perspective. Teen parents encounter a great deal of judgment and stereotyping. Are the dire predictions for teen parents and their children accurate?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Secondary Rejection: Painful by Any Name

Spoiler Alert: This post reveals aspects of the plot of Laura Moriarty's novel The Chaperone.

The main character in Laura Moriarty's novel The Chaperone is Cora Carlisle, a middle-aged Midwestern woman who had arrived in Kansas years ago by way of an orphan train. In the novel she returns to New York City with hopes of learning something about her personal history. The nun she speaks with at the Catholic-run “Home for Friendless Girls," where Cora lived prior to being placed on the train, is dismissive of Cora's desire for information, condescendingly telling her to leave well enough alone. But with the help of the orphanage handyman, Cora is able to get a hold of her records.

In them is a letter from woman named Mary O'Dell, who claims to know Cora's mother. Cora and Mary arrange to meet at Grand Central Station. When they meet, Cora recognizes immediately that Mary is not merely a friend of the family; she is Cora's mother herself. Mary does not deny it. They have one hour to spend together before Mary must get back on the train to return to her life in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

We Can Do Better: A Call to Move Beyond Adoption as We Know It

There was a time in history when children without parents or extended family members to care for them ended up in poor houses, orphan asylums, or baby farms, all of which were pretty horrid places. One could certainly argue that the societal shift from viewing unattached children as potential sources of labor, as in indentured servitude, to viewing them as children to be raised as one's own offspring represented a clear improvement. But the horrors of the past do not excuse us from looking critically at the institutions of the present. We can focus on moving forward, rather than back. We do not have to accept the status quo as merely "better than before" or "good enough." We can do better.

The fact that so many of today's grown adoptees report having experienced pressure (sometimes subtle; sometimes overt) to feel "grateful" for our "better" life demonstrates something important about residual cultural attitudes towards bastard/orphan/unwanted children. Lingering beneath all the warm fuzzy rhetoric of modern adoption lies this unpleasantness: we are still held by many as less deserving than those raised by their own biological parents. We should be grateful for what we got. We should not complain.
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