SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Adoptions Studies has long been an understudied field, but recently the subject has garnered attention from scholars across multiple disciplines, including Lori Askeland, Wittenberg associate professor of English. In an effort to bring more attention to the field, Askeland recently edited a reference book, Children and Youth in Adoption, Orphanages, and Foster Care, published by Greenwood Press in January.
The book is a first for Askeland, who had previously written entries on adoption and orphanages for Girlhood in America (2001). The general editor of the series, Miriam Forman-Brunell, later approached Askeland about editing a reference book to be geared toward high school and college students. Children and Youth in Adoption, Orphanages, and Foster Care offers an overview of the history of displaced children in the United States and is part of a series of books currently being published by Greenwood Press.
Divided into three sections, it includes essays by top scholars in the field, including Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard University Law School, Claudia Nelson of Texas A&M University and Marilyn Holt, an author of several historical monographs on the orphan train phenomenon. Following the essays are six chapters detailing the historical period, one of which is written by Dianne Creagh, a graduate student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Each chapter contains original documents and excerpts from long works, some of which are written by children. The final section of the book is an extended bibliography divided into subtopics.
“Part of our goal was to deliberately include the voices and perspectives of children,” said Askeland, who earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas. “The history that this book traces is a history of some of the most vulnerable persons in our society.”
While Askeland has studied the topic for several years, she has also been personally affected; with her husband, she adopted her own nieces and soon thereafter felt a calling to further study the subject.
“We don’t always like to see poor and vulnerable people, and we even more often fail to hear their voices,” Askeland said. “My book tries to give a sense of the perspectives of all the people whose lives have been touched by adoption, orphanages, and foster care so that we can do a better job of understanding their needs and the challenges they face.”
Children and Youth in Adoption, Orphanages, and Foster Care will be available at public and college libraries and can be purchased online at amazon.com.
- Sarah Gearhart '06