PRESIDENT'S REMARKS: MELISSA HOLUB, PH.D.
ANGELINA WANTS ONE FROM EVERY CONTINENT AND MADONNA GETS POLITICAL IN MALAWI
There are (rough estimate) 3 million, non-related adopted persons in the US, though it's a category tracked only in the most recent census surveys. For each of those millions there are definitely two "first parents" and there is at least one, usually two, parents responsible for parenting said "adoptees." Yet, this group of millions with first-hand connections to adoption remains a poorly understood subculture in the US.
I put the terminology above in quotes, because language is complex, and some in the field realm of adoption contest their given labels. Like any other, the language of adoption speaks its history and culture. Take, for example, the term "put up," as in, "She put her child up for adoption." You can find it in most newspaper articles about adoption.
The term references the orphan trains, which carried approximately 100,000 parentless children from city streets and orphanages to midwestern families between 1851 and 1929. Without regard for previous relationships or sibling status, children were disembarked from trains onto station platforms, so they could be looked over as potential farm hands and adoptive children. Health, heft, and teeth were all surveyed by local farmers. Because the children were small, they were literally put up on platforms for easy viewing. Thus the phrase, "put up" for adoption.
It is this history, invoked when using seemingly everyday language, that also makes me passionate about working with adoption and attendant issues. Adoptive connections are staggeringly simple, mostly based on desire for loving, healthy attachments. The adoptive panorama, spanning psyche, history, culture, class, race, and so on, is, however, equally complex, filled with twists and turns, secrets and shadows, and endless paradoxes -- of connections entwined with loss, of parents who are substitutes for whom there is no substitute, of identities based in dissolution, crying out for integration.
Notwithstanding Hollywood sensationalism of Brangelinas and Madonnas, adoption's internal landscape takes us into primal territory, where powerful fantasies, deep longings and existential questions beg for meaningful expression. Adoptive connections, including all birth and adoptive facets, make up a subculture worthy of psychoanalytic attention and understanding. I am available for conversations or questions.
Melissa Holub, Ph.D.