Monday, 28 January 2008

Dickens Lives in New York

American Notes

I would suppose this should be an addendum to American Notes for General Circulation which detailed Charles Dickens' trip around North America between January and June 1842.

As it were, he visited prisons and mental institutions, so why not in 2008 include an orphanage? This story is littered with the works of Charles Dickens much as they reflect observations that seem to find true today.

Well, this is the cruel sign of the times as we record the way our sense of compassion and humanity is lost to bureaucracy and litigation.

An English family of three comprising the mother and her two daughters aged 15 and 13 took advantage of the appreciated pound over the dollar and decided to visit New York. [BBC News]

Unfortunately, the mother took ill with pneumonia that she had to be hospitalised but her daughters being minors could not stay in the hospital with her.

Lodgers of the workhouse

The doctors then arranged that they should be kept with foster parents for the period their mother was in hospital, this would have been the remit of the Administration for Children’s Services in New York (ACSNY).

To cut a long story short, in the whole of glorious New York, New York, they could not find a foster family so they placed the girls in an orphanage.

At the orphanage, they were stripped of their clothes, issued uniforms, given medical examinations and questioned about whether that had been abused.

Beyond that, they were made to shower in front of strangers and refused visiting rights to their mother. So we have perfectly normal children who being distressed because of their sick mother, frightened because of their separation, terrified because of treatment they have received are now traumatised by being interrogated and coerced to express grotesque, deplorable, despicable and reprehensible experiences they have never had. Children's Services?

When their mother heard that her daughters had been placed in an orphanage, she discharged herself and retrieved her kids from what Charles Dickens in his time would have called a workhouse.

Governess on leave

Obviously, in those times, people who could afford to visit America rather than the settlers would have travelled with a retinue of servants and definitely a governess.

Now, the mother has received a "standard" letter from the ACSNY informing her that she is being investigated.

I would suppose for falling terribly ill that she could not make adequate provision for the accommodation and safety of her daughters.

One would have thought there was an inkling of humanity and compassionate intuition in the ACSNY at least in the 21st Century to have been able to make adequate provision; but they have rolled back the years – the girls probably made an acquaintance with Oliver Twist asking for more and the Fagin directors of this disservice really thought they were doing their jobs.

Supposedly, every child is an abused child until proven otherwise – this is the most cynical outlook to life that can be expressed to any child.

A snapshot of the battle of life

This sad tale is just another snapshot of America where almost 47 million have no health insurance, where foreclosures are rising, where dishonesty has given rise to the credit crunch that has stifled the world’s economy and where they could not find a friendly caring foster family to care for two kids for a day or two.

That is The Battle of Life I suppose many Americans face, no doubt the family went to New York with Great Expectations, the experienced Hard Times in a Bleak House.

Dickens surely lives again in New York – it is definitely now off limits or where else would one learn to pick a pocket or two [YouTube (Oliver Twist Musical)].

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