The Circulation of Children by Jessaca B. Leinaweaver

Category: Culture
Date added
2021/03/27
Pages:  4
Words:  1228
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The ethnography, The Circulation of Children, by Jessaca B. Leinaweaver, is about how she investigates child circulation in Peru. Child circulation is an unofficial style of arrangements that are made where indigenous Andean children are sent by their parents to live in other houses with other families. Child circulation can be established by the parents because they can not care for their children or because an elder either wants company since they have none, or it gives the children a possibility to acquire skills needed in life.

Leinaweaver shows that an interpretation of “child circulation” is shallow and deceiving. Leinaweavers ethnographic study shows how child circulation is actually an important and reasonable practice for the Peruvians. This ends up being a workable system of kinship that has been around the Andean people for over a long period of time. In this paper, I will discuss three large pieces from the book; orphan-hood, child circulation vs legal adoption, and child circulation and strategies. Orphan-hood The term “orphan” as we know it is a child whose parents are dead, where they are left alone with no adults to take care of the child. They are put into orphanages with other children with the same hardship.

However, in the Ayacucho region after small casualty wars, they created orphanages where children are kept, but their parents are still alive. These orphanages were created due to the fact of Ayacuchos violence in the late 20th century, and because of the socio economic troubles that occur in the region. At first, the Ayacucho have never had orphanages since relatives were able to take in the children but, “the war wreaked havoc on relatives’ ability and desire to help, and orphanages soon sprang up to receive the smaller victims of the violence.” (Leinaweaver, 62). The children sent to the orphanages would be cared by social workers and aides who were trained beforehand. The children who were admitted to these orphanages were described as “children of terrorism” and whenever new children entered the facilities, the children who were there longer, were told to describe why they were placed at the orphanages in the first place, meaning they had to talk about what happened to their parents.

Most of the orphans spoke about how they were present when their parents were killed by accident or forcefully. After the death of Papa Andres, the man who created these orphanages from the beginning in the region, nuns took over and created more orphanages, where there were institutions that offered support rather than housing. These institutions offered tutoring, handicrafts to children, workshops, and support for street children. But, these children all have similar traits; their parents are both dead during the war.

Child Circulation vs Legal Adoption

In the Ayacucho region, child circulation is an unofficial style of arrangements that are made where indigenous Andean children are sent by their parents to live in other houses with other families. Child circulation can be established by the parents because they can not care for their children or because an elder either wants company since they have none, or it gives the children a possibility to acquire skills needed in life. The Ayacuchos use the term “acompanar” meaning “to accompany”, when a young person goes to live with an elder. They have certain roles that are somewhat the families child and household employee.

However, the main purpose is to accompany the elder to remove the elders feeling of solitude by being there for them. Child circulation is a gendered practice, providing for interesting ways in which girls, desired by receiving households for their labor skills, can have real opportunities. In the Ayacucho region, boys just barely outnumbered girls, there are slightly more girls than boys in Ayacucho orphanages, however a few more boys than girls are placed for adoption. Because of this, girls are more likely to be temporarily placed in these orphanages, but they also are more likely to be taken by poor parents. “The same practices about gender difference that cause girls to be circulated as useful companions and household helpers mean that boys are slightly more likely to be permanently abandoned at an orphanage, and afterwards adopted.”(Leinaweaver, 132). Legal adoption of children requires the state and its laws justifying the transferring of the child away from its birth home to the adopting parents, which involves complicated international procedures, since many adopting parents are Europeans and Americans. When the region began applying internationally agreed upon codes and procedures, the number of adoptions began to decline because the new laws and procedures became more strict.

Child Circulation and Strategies

Child circulation in the Ayacucho region shares with the rest of Peru an extremely strong current of rural to urban migration, which in cases of moving children to cities and placing them in higher status homes is but one of the many strategies used by rural people to manage access to some of the benefits of upward class mobility. Women in the region far outnumber men in circulation because they are in greater danger. But because women tend to work more, they know how to do more things which helps these families out. The circulation of these young children often work around the house; to cook, clean, and helping with smaller children.

While young men were prefered for farms. When young children are transferred into new homes, they are considered to be “helping” around the house rather than forced or commanded. Relocating the girls based on their skills is an advantage to families because of the concept of “superacion”. All the girls that are transferred, are entitled to work and because of that they have more access to the advantages that can result from transferring into a socially and economically wealthier home.

Relatives who take in a child do so out of kinship obligations to help out those in distress; the children who work in other households are really benefiting from education. The families are skilled at expanding their kinship networks, using the circulation of children effectively and in masking behind kinship norms. One of Jessaca’s friends, Cecilia, had taken in a child, Paulina. She was “like a daughter” but only “like” and was differently treated than Cecilia’s other biological children. Because it is ‘like’ a kinship relationship, the child’s and its parents options towards the receiving relative are constrained.

In conclusion, these and many more themes run through this short and readable book. Leinaweaver writes about obstacles and moral dilemmas that arise when children are moved out of their birth parents’ homes to be raised by relatives, by other people, in institutions, or adopted abroad. In this book, sending children ahead of parental moves and placing them in urban and more ‘educated’ homes while still young and impressionable is well described. Child circulation is not a common practice that we are used to. However if it works in the Ayacucho region, then it is a practice we should respect and not judge. The mothers suffer greatly and love their children but being so poor, they have to give them up, and in so doing they enthusiastically wish a better life for them and thus sacrifice themselves. Relatives who take in a child do so out of kinship obligations to help out those in distress. The children who work in other households are really benefiting from education and much more.

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The Circulation of Children by Jessaca B. Leinaweaver. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-circulation-of-children-by-jessaca-b-leinaweaver/

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