Devil, Hero or Sleeping Beauty? The Making of Orphan Myths and Public Administration

Children who are separated from their parents, whether temporarily or permanently, become dependent on representatives of the state to make the day-to-day decisions of their care. In these interactions with vulnerable children, these representatives rely on their own discretion to guide them in how to approach the children they are responsible for. What stories exist that might influence how street-level bureaucrats think about children who are separated from their parents? What narratives might inform the discretion and judgment they use in their work? In this paper, I explore the narratives of superhero stories, romance novels, and horror films in order to identify the orphan archetypes they portray and consider how these myths might impact the interactions between orphans and public administrators.

Forthcoming in Public Voices.

Photo credit: helena_perez_garcia via / CC BY-NC-ND