Fostering an American Girl

Childe Hassam 1859-1935 - American painter - Avenue of the Allies 1918 - The Impressionist Flags  (1)What are boundaries for? Imagine this: a girl, aged ten, is released to the state after her mother refuses to seek counseling for beating and starving her children. The girl sits in wait for a new home, gets one and wonders alone in her new room. Is this bed mine? Will wolves (the human kind and the furry kind) cross the line into my personal space through doors and opened windows? Will a higher power, a governing force, protect me?

This girl knows (after years of being in the system) that people often have very good excuses for overrunning her boundaries. She even feels some sympathy for the wolf who is her blood mother. This girl also knows (or wants to believe) that not all people who invade her space are bad, but does that matter? When a foreign person insists on brushing her hair it’s still an invasion.

This girl’s personal rights and privileges have been suspended through no fault of her own. Many rights have been taken to “protect” her, and it’s then that she wonders how is it that the invaders, those with good intentions and those with bad, have more rights than she does. She slams the windows shut. She insists on repeating this CD is mine. This sock is MINE. This space is officially mine!


Is she irrational for insisting upon the notion of sovereignty? Is it okay to let other abused people fleeing poverty, despots and war into her personal space without asking? There’s a book her therapist gave her that she reads again and again. It’s My Body (a book to teach young people how to resist uncomfortable touch). This girl understands yet struggles with boundaries. Just like the millions of other people fleeing wolves, this girl wants to run away and into other people’s space. She ignores boundaries and the laws of nations set up to protect the rights of citizens. She’s never been protected, has never read the Bill of Rights, has not pondered its meaning or its history.

As foster parents we invited this child into our home, come what may. We considered long and hard and were never forced. There’s something about being forced to do something that makes it unappealing (God gave us each our sovereignty and when it’s tread upon we feel a boundary has been crossed).

Childe Hassam 1859-1935 - American painter - Avenue of the Allies 1918 - The Impressionist Flags  (5)

Make no mistake, personal property is a sure sign of freedom. Forced sharing is a sign of tyranny and personal abuse. If our house were overrun with children each as needy as this one little girl then we’d have to fly the white flag of surrender. I’d rather fly the flag of freedom for one individual than all the flags of wolves.

flag_hassam_57th_18_lgOne company is synonymous with the beleaguered flag that once stood for freedom: The Annin Flag Company. Around since the mid-19th century Annin vowed at the beginning of the Civil War to  “Without going through forms of contract[to supply] the government direct . . . as the war progressed, orders came pouring in from every state and city that was loyal to the Union, so that by the beginning of 1864, there was not a single battlefield, a brigade or a division that did not use Annin flags.” Wikipedia


Some will argue that the Civil War was not about individual rights. I disagree. It certainly was a messy debate and butchery over the meaning of freedom and boundaries (personal and communal). People in the North hung Annin flags from their homes. Some (a great many as the war progressed) understood that it wasn’t enough to allow a percentage of runaway slaves escaping a rotten system to cross the border into freedom. If a group of states could go against the law of the land any time they didn’t like the outcome of an election (even if the election brought in the Republican Lincoln) there would be no such thing as a free election left on earth (The US was a very young experiment at the time–one which the world watched with a mix of disgust and awe).

The powers that be in the state of New York watch over a foster girl. All the papers are signed and procedures are followed presumably to protect the children and the adults involved in foster care. Rules will help protect this child’s boundaries. In time it is hoped that the chaos of a life spent without boundaries will be a distant memory for this girl. She will need time to first close her boundaries, to see what her baseline status is, before she can open up with freedom and allow others to politely cross the borders to her heart.

De jure, or legal, sovereignty concerns the expressed and institutionally recognized right to exercise control over a territory. De facto, or actual, sovereignty is concerned with whether control in fact exists. Cooperation and respect of the populace; control of resources in, or moved into, an area; means of enforcement and security; and ability to carry out various functions of state all represent measures of de facto sovereignty. When control is practiced predominately by military or police force it is considered coercive sovereignty. Wikipedia






**Paintings by Childe Hassam




11 responses to “Fostering an American Girl”

  1. Durrr….I’m missing the point. Any help? I don’t get the adopted girl correlation to the civil war – might be because of my vague knowledge of US history or perhaps a current US event?


    • bluestempond’s reply sums it up nicely (better than I could have done).

      The underlying point in this rambling post is that boundaries and borders are necessities in a flawed world where we can’t always assume being open and generous will bring good results.

      The Civil War reference is me considering the feelings of many Northerners who wanted to help slaves but also feared a mass migration of them North (whether it was due to racism or the normal fear of there not being enough work or the infrastructure to deal with culturally different hordes of people is open to debate).

      The question in my mind is: if it’s important for humans to have good personal boundaries, why is it bad to be nervous about border-less countries?


  2. I get it. To me, it’s about the boundaries between individual rights and the greater good. Seeing that in one young girl’s struggle to feel safe in her own rights is insightful.


  3. Well it is insightful now I get it! Yes indeed. I didn’t think it was rambling I knew my cloudy brain was just missing the point. The points, queries and comparisons are well made!
    And you end your answer with a great question about borders. The real people trying to enforce those boundary breakdowns are not necessarily going to feel the brunt of their work as the people at the coal face of it will. And since humans from the beginning of time are hellbent on singling out differences in one another and punishing each other for them – down to the ludicrous i.e attacking people with ginger hair – the mixing of tons of disparate cultures seems doomed to failure – or to require a great deal of time to resolve the endless issues and conflicts it throws up.
    The little girl’s misgivings seem bang on to me and I like the summation, ‘She will need time to first close her boundaries, to see what her baseline status is, before she can open up with freedom and allow others to politely cross the borders to her heart.’


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