Posts Tagged ‘ blended families ’

Origin of the term “step-child”

Is the word “Step” in relation to families a “…rose by any other name…?”

Old English. steop-, with connotations of “loss,” in combinations like steopcild “orphan,” related to astiepan, bestiepan “to bereave, to deprive of parents or children,” from P.Gmc. *steupa- “bereft” (cf. O.Fris. stiap-, O.N. stjup-, Swed. styv-, M.L.G. stef-, Du. stief-, O.H.G. stiof-, Ger. stief-), lit. “pushed out,” from PIE *steup-, from base *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)). Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. For sense evolution, cf. L. privignus “stepson,” related to privus “deprived.”

In my previous blog contribution I considered the origins of the word “family”.  I  concluded that the concept of family as a nuclear, genetically-linked group is a relatively modern concept emerging sometime in the 17th century and culminating in such pop-cultural jargon as “family values”, an undefined but politically-charged term emerging sometime during the political campaigning of the 1960’s.


Although there have been several notable attempts to provide a better name for “modern” families, “Step” continues to be the prefix of choice.  Unfortunately it doesn’t mean “take a step in the right direction” as though it were a part of a larger and progressive process.  Unfortunately, although ancient in origin, the concepts of sad and deprived children, as demonstrated by the etymology, are all too often reflected in today’s reconstituted families.


Just in case you think I’m spending way too much time worrying about the ideas behind these adoption-related words, apparently I’m not the only other person thinking about this stuff:


I Love My Job!

I love my job.  Imagine for a moment that you were the person chosen to tell the Red Deer College plumbing instructors that they had just won $30 million dollars in the lottery; well my job is better!


Sure there’s all kinds of “Good News” situations in which people receive good news, but even their absolute best news can’t top mine.  You see, I am in the “family” business; I am in the “new family” business, the ever-growing stepfamily and blended family business.


Don’t get me wrong, money is great. I think everyone likes, and wants, nice things.  We are all seeking love and approval but, somewhere deep inside each of us, we know that all of this can come and go. No matter how quickly each of us spins our personal treadmills, frets about bills, and worries about not fitting into the clothes we purchased a few months ago, in a primal instinctive way, we all know that the only thing that really matters is our ability to renew ourselves through the endless extension of our interlaced families that stretch back countless generations, and with any hope will extend forward into a possible eternity.


Now imagine that you are told that, for whatever reason, you are not able to create family or that your fractured family can not be renewed.  Imagine actually being blocked from that great cosmic cycle of human renewal.  Surely you would welcome even the smallest of miracles!


The miracle of renewal that I help bring to people is that of adoption, specifically private placement adoption and stepparent adoption.  Suddenly what did not seem possible, is accomplished.  I get to tell people who have struggled with conception, “Congratulations!  You are now parents.”, or tell stepfamilies that they are no longer “blended” or “combined”  but legally “whole”, for the first time and that they are able to legally share the bond of a common family name. 


If you think people are happy when they win the lottery or get that big promotion, think of how the people I work with react when I tell them that their adoption has been granted!


A couple of months ago I met a young couple from Northern Alberta. Tania and Steve had just married, were newly pregnant, and Steve announced that he wanted to adopt his bride’s son. After meeting and gathering the pertinent information, I prepared their stepparent adoption and am almost ready to file the adoption application in Court.  I can hardly wait to call them, when the time comes, and let this new dad know that he is the legal father of this little boy and that his son now has the same last name.  Can you imagine the joy and the happiness?


Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the living room of Susan and Kathy, an amazing couple who were in the process of resigning themselves to the fact that they would likely never be able to make that leap from being a couple to becoming a family.  Despite their love and commitment, biology prevented them from passing along their quintessential elements, of who they were as individuals and as a couple to children who could, in turn, repeat that transfer to their children. They excitedly shared their story of how they were approached by a pregnant woman (in her early 20’s) and asked if they wanted to adopt her baby.  Well, that baby has been born and this couple are now new parents; and have an open adoption so that the birthmother and the child could know each other. Once the adoption application is filed, and I am notified of the adoption being granted, I am honoured once again to make that wonderful phone call congratulating a new ‘legal’ family!  I love my job, I help create small miracles.


Edie Pendleton, BSW RSW