By Sally Sales (auth.)
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Extra info for Adoption, Family and the Paradox of Origins: A Foucauldian History
She describes how in the mid-nineteenth century, unmarried and deserted working- class women approached the Thomas Coram Foundling hospital to have their illegitimate babies permanently or temporarily looked after elsewhere. The internal rules of the establishment required an unmarried mother wishing to place her child permanently, or for a limited period of time, to conform to certain criteria. She had to be able to show that her good faith had been betrayed, that she had given way to carnal passion only after a promise of marriage or against her will; that she therefore had no other children; and that her conduct had always been irreproachable in every other respect.
As Chapter 2 explored, by the beginning of the twentieth century the family had become both a site for intervention with failing subjects and the primary space for the correct and proper production of moral subjects. Clearly, by the 1930s there was an emergent sense of the family as a welfare resource for adoption, a place where the socially marginal and excluded could be reabsorbed and re-normalised (Donzelot, 1997, p. 58). However, its function in these respects had not been stabilised and social groupings that fell outside of the family unit were active participants in adopting children.
This concern with preserving the sexual health of the bourgeois family led to a range of medical and political projects for managing marriage and birth for fear that sexual perversion would deplete the line of descent. Here truth and knowledge were bound up with the origin of birth – the importance of knowledge about one’s origins and the importance of having a true origin. Within this, illegitimacy was constructed as a threat with all its uncertainties regarding the paternal origin and its challenge to the newly evolving marital family unit.