Dr. Noah H. Kersey, Ph.D.
Over the years, a large volume of literature has been devoted to the structure of the family in America and, prior to the sexual revolution of the late 1960’s, the traditional family unit was comprised of a mother, a father, and children.
However, as the divorce rate has climbed to over fifty-percent, so has the structure of the family evolved into a myriad of single parent families and blended families. Things are not quite so simple as in the days of “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver“.
There is a growing body of work describing the psychological and sociological adjustments of the adoptive family, the adoptee, and to a lesser extent, the birth parents who relinquished their child for adoption either by choice or by unavoidable circumstances.
Interestingly, there has been very little attention paid to orphans who were never adopted.
In the movie "Good Will Hunting", a troubled young man named Will Hunting was an orphan and a genius. From being abused and tortured as a child in various foster homes, he trusted no one.
Will had a tendency to be physically violent and held people at a distance with his biting words and hostile attitude. It was only after he insulted and repelled five prospective therapists that he found his equal and mentor in Sean Maguire, a fellow "Southie" from South Boston. Sean was able to break through Will's psychological defenses because they both had suffered loss and lived with emotional pain.
In the film, “The Cider House Rules”, the lead character Homer was adopted several times only to be returned because he was either too “quiet” for one couple or abused by another.
Therefore, Homer grew up in the orphanage never again to be adopted. Instead, he was trained by the physician who operated the ’home” to be an ’unofficial doctor’ who either provided abortions or helped babies into the world to be adopted.
At one point in the film Homer was trying to provide comfort to another orphan named Curly. It seemed Curly could not understand why prospective adoptive parents who came to ‘look at’ the children in the orphanage never chose him.
Homer explained to Curly that he was “much too special to be adopted by just anyone”. Only a very special family could have Curly. It was never made apparent if Curly ever believed Homer’s attempt to ameliorate the little boy’s pain.
What happens to orphans who are not chosen for adoption? Where do they go? What do they do?
Back in the late 1960’s a considerable number of orphans, upon reaching their late teens, were asked to drop out of school and join the military. It was easier to supervise smaller kids than it was older kids with raging hormones.
Some orphans did drop out of school and worked full-time jobs. Most were drafted and sent off to Vietnam.
Maybe an unknown number of orphans were able to struggle long enough to finish high school. Possibly, there was a smaller group who applied to colleges. Perhaps an infinitesimal number even graduated from college and went on to successful jobs or careers.
The difficulty is the dearth of documentation in regards to how many kids left orphanages without being adopted and were able to lead a productive life. Did they manage to finish their formal education? Did they develop an entrepreneurial acumen to become successful business people?