Thursday, March 08, 2007

Child Abandonment From the Inside

Over the next few weeks, Research-China.Org will be publishing a series of articles recounting interviews with birth parents who abandoned their children, and the Chinese individuals that found them. These articles will hopefully allow us to gain some insight into the motives and reactions of these individuals. These interviews were obtained by Chinese reporters, and represent a new trend in Chinese media -- the publication of the stories of the abandoning birth parents.

For years, the Chinese newspapers have reported foundling stories -- a child found here, an interview of a finder there. But only very recently have the birth families themselves become part of the picture. The recent Dutch interview of a birth family in Chongqing Municipality is one such example. The article below is another. Perhaps control of these stories is loosening in order to show others the guilt and social displeasure that occurs when a child is abandoned in order to dissuade families from taking this step.

A word about birth parent interviews in general. One must realize that taking a "top down" approach to researching birth parents does not provide data from which we can extrapolate to the general population. For example, I walk into a village and publicized that I am searching for birth parents. I find 50 birth parents that are willing to be interviewed by me, and in the course of the interview the vast majority of them confess that they wish they had never abandoned their child. Since it appears possible, if not likely, that birth parents that feel guilt would be the ones who would step forward, my "top-down" approach has resulted in a sampling that possibly over-represents the "guilt factor" among the general birth-parents population. Perhaps there are many birth parents who felt no guilt, and these did not seek to be interviewed.

In order for birth parent interviews to be a valid demographic tool, they need to be obtained from a "bottom-up" process. For example, taking all of the children abandoned in a certain geographical area, and drawing a random sample. If one could then locate the birth parents for those children, one would have a statistically valid study, from which conclusions could be drawn. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible in today's environment.

The following interviews are an attempt at a "bottom-up" approach, but are obviously not scientific. We can draw broad conclusions from them, but we must remember that every birth-parent's story is unique, and thus we must avoid reading too much into these interviews. They are, nevertheless, very interesting.


Two pairs of newly born girl twins are abandoned within two months

The Maternal and Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district have received five abandoned babies which are all premature

Xinkuai News, Jan. 30th— On Christmas day in 2006, the silence of the Maternal & Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district was broken by babies’ crying. Two premature girl twins were just born here and sent to incubation immediately by the nurses. To everyone’s surprise, the parents of the girl twins disappeared and never showed up again.

Our reporter knows from the Maternal & Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district that it has received five abandoned babies, including two pairs of girl twins and a baby boy. In Guangzhou, these five abandoned babies are just a shadow of society. Estimated by the civil administration, there are 1,300 orphans living in the Social Welfare Institute in Guangzhou. Some of them are not real orphans, but abandoned by their parents.

Abandoning one’s own child, according to some lawyers, has violated the criminal law, item 261, which is called the “Offense of Abandonment”. The maximum punishment can be five years behind bars. Actually, regardless of the restriction and punishment by law, we all understand that what these children suffer can last for their whole lives. Professor ShenJiahong, juvenile psychology expert in Baiyun Psychology Hospital, states that “parents play the key role during the process of their children’s growing up. No one else can replace them.”

Case One
Children being saved in the hospital, parents disappeared without trace

At 6:00 am Christmas day 2006, two premature girl twins were sent to the incubation unit of the Maternal & Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district. The mother of the babies, Ms. Wu, was sent to the delivery room at 3:00 am. Three hours later, she gave birth to two baby girls, both of which were over two kg. However, one of the babies had a little problem with her lungs; the other girl was totally fine. At noon, the parents of the babies said that they were going to see their children, but in fact, sneaked away without paying the hospital.

Our reporter saw the twin sisters who were sound asleep in the baby nursing room. The creases of the newly born baby had disappeared and the faces were tender and ruby. Both of them even smiled from time to time in their dreams. The nurses told our reporter that the two sisters are very healthy and both have good appetites as well.

Besides the careful nursing, the hospital had paid more than 35000 RMB of treatment expense for these two sisters. Before they are sent to the welfare institute, the expense are expected to increase.

Case Two
The father went away with an excuse after the success of the emergency treatment

Another case in point also just happened. On the early morning of Nov. 12th, 2006, the emergency car of the same hospital received a pair of girl twins from the People’s Hospital in Guilong town, Baiyun district. One of the sisters had to be rescued with the need of a breathing machine for she had a lung disease. The parents of the children are Anhuiness. The mother just gave birth to the two sisters and did not go with them to the hospital. The father, who looked anxious, asked the staff of the hospital to do what they could to rescue his daughters and he did not care how much it would cost.

The situation was urgent and the sick baby was sent to the emergency room without any procedures. After the rescue, both of the sisters were kept in stable condition. Next, they were weighed at 1.3 kilogram and 1.4 kilogram separately, and then sent to the incubation unit. They will be discharged once they reach 2 kilogram. Knowing that the children were fine, the father stated that he wanted to go back to fetch money for the charge of his children’s staying in hospital, but he disappeared without a trace.

Case Three
Poor baby boy was abandoned, claimed to be not the child of the father

Staying with the above twins, there is another baby boy in the baby nursing room. Last Dec. 17th, a mother whose name is Wuhong (a fake name), 20 years old, gave birth to a baby boy in advance, because she was sick of many diseases. The baby was born fine except that he weighed no more than 2 kilogram. The father sneaked away on the following day.

“That girl looked no more than 20 years old, and the man who sent her here didn’t look like her husband. Later the mother could not be found. That man told us that it’s not that he cannot raise the child. It’s that the mother was with several men before she got pregnant. He did not believe the baby was his,” President Yang in the hospital said.

Additionally, President Yang told us that the hospital has dealt with twelve such cases of abandoned children in 2006. According to their counting of all the cases that happened in the hospital, including older stories, these abandoned babies’ parents were farmers from other provinces. Most of the babies are girls and a few of them are born deformed.

Opinions from all parties

The father in "Case Two" gives an interview
“We want a healthy baby”

On the afternoon of January 5th, the reporter contacted Lu, the father of the twin girls described above. He honestly expressed his thoughts about abandoning his own babies:

Reporter: How precious it is to have a pair of twins. How could you just abandon them?

Lu: I didn’t mean to abandon them. It’s just that both of them are premature and one of them has a lung problem. I was afraid that I couldn’t bring them up.

Reporter: They are your own babies. Aren’t you missing them?

Lu: After all, they are my daughters. It’s impossible that I don’t miss them. I ask my friends to check them out for me every few days. I heard that one of the babies is not going to survive.

Reporter: When I was with them in the hospital, both of them look healthy. They should be discharged soon.

Lu: Premature babies aren’t going to be healthy even when they can grow up. Besides, the younger sister has the lung problem. One of my friends said that in this case, even if it can be cured, it often recurs later. She probably won’t live for three years. I am afraid that she is meant to die after I pay so much for the treatment.

Reporter: Is the financial condition in your family so poor?

Lu: I am responsible for a project now and I am preparing to buy an apartment here in Guangzhou. I can pay more than ten thousand RMB for their treatment at present. It won’t be a problem at all. If the money can cure them completely, I am willing to pay, but they are premature, only weighing about 2 kilogram. Plus they are so weak and it is worse that the younger sister is sick. It’s unlikely that they will grow up like other healthy babies. It’s said that twins should be raised in couple. If one of them died, the other will not survive.

Reporter: If they were not healthy, won’t you take care of them?

Lu: I still will show them my care in other ways. Probably I will ask my friends to visit them for me and give them some assistance in life, but I will not claim to be their father.

Reporter: Do you still have other children?

Lu: My present wife is my second one. My ex-wife died a few years ago due to her poor health after giving birth to my son who is now three years old. These two sisters are the first babies of my present wife and me. If we keep them, we cannot have other babies. So if we want to have a healthy baby, we have to abandon them.

Civil Administration Department

Hard to supervise and prevent abandoning baby

President Yang in the Maternal and Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district said that they used to search for the parents of those abandoned babies according to the contact information that they wrote down when registering to stay in hospital. However, it’s very hard to find them since they are all working people from other provinces and they do not have steady residences. They even shut their cell phones down once they left the hospital. According to Lawyer Gong in the Oriental Kunlun Lawyer’s office, what these parents did has violated the criminal law, item 261, which is called the “Offense of Abandonment”. The maximum punishment can be five year behind bars. It would be more serious if the abandoned babies were twins. About such issue, Ding Dongfeng, director of the Social Welfare Bureau in the Guangzhou Civil Administration Department, pointed out that, from the government’s point of view and within the social moral range, we advocate that parents should assume the responsibility and obligation for their babies no matter they are born deformed or not, and regardless of the sex. For this, the government has been enhancing the sense of responsibility of the parents who have just given birth to babies. However, director Ding added that, if the parents can’t be found in the end, the city’s social welfare institutes will surely receive the babies and take good care of them.

Also, director Ding told all the civilians and units that once they find abandoned babies, they should call the police first. All the parents of the abandoned babies that the social institutes have received cannot be identified by the Public Security Department, thus it’s very hard to supervise and prevent such events at its source.

Being abandoned would affect the babies for their whole lives

It’s reported that the orphans and abandoned babies that are living in Guangzhou Social Welfare Institute are about 1300. The Welfare Institute just has 800 beds, so some of the abandoned babies have to be raised in other welfare institutes. Director Ding Dongfeng said that the Social Welfare Institute can assure the children who are normal, mentally and physically, that they can receive the education that other normal children have, including going to elementary school, junior and senior school, even college. Abandoned babies that are seriously deformed the Social Welfare Institute will also take care of for their whole lives.

However, Professor Shen Jiahong, juvenile psychology expert in Baiyun psychology hospital, has his opinion that being abandoned and ignored will do irreparable harm to the babies which can last their whole lives, and impose great hidden danger to the society security. “Parents play the key role during the process of their children’s growing up. No one else can replace them. Abandoned by their parents, the children find it hard to have friendly relationships with people around them and form good habits. No matter if he or she was born being optimistic or introversive, the pain of being abandoned probably would not be smoothed away.

Compared with children that are brought up in normal families, the abandoned babies are easy to have a mental illness called “Syndrome of Being Lake of Mother’s Love”. They have weaker capacity for difficulties that they encounter during their lives. Also they have no sense of security for people and society. If they were not treated well during the process of their growing up, they may have hatred to society and take revenge with destructive acts.

Ms. Xiao Cunyu, a researcher in China writing organization who has been engaging in the research of the juveniles with problems in the Juvenile Reformatory, told our reporter that seven out of ten Juveniles with problems in the Juvenile Reformatory lacked parental love ever since they were born. In fact, it’s not just the children; the parents who have abandoned them will also suffer and feel guilty in the rest of their lives.

Source Article:


Anonymous said...

Wow, this just blows my mind. One of our daughters was likely a preemie. How thankful I am that someone thought she would live and was worth saving.

Interesting that the birthparents seem to have no clue that their children will probably be adopted internationally and raised as a citizen of another country, without any chance of any of the birthparent's friends to "look in" on them. It doesn't even sound like they're aware they would be placed in an orphanage.

Thanks Brian--looking forward to more.

Research-China.Org said...

One can never know for sure, but it seems likely that the finding location does reveal something of the birth parents expectations for their child. For a child left at the orphanage or hospital, it is almost certain that the birth parents realized the child would be cared for by the State. However, many children are left a residences, businesses, and other "personal" locations, and in most of those cases it can be assumed that the birth family assumed the finders would keep the child, and not turn it over to the State.


Anonymous said...


How reliable do you think finding information is? I have heard some parents suggest the details are just "made up" to sound good for adoption. Do you think the details are always truth, usually truth, or...?


Research-China.Org said...

I believe the finding locations are largely accurate. I have confided doubts to many directors, and they always insist that they do the best they can. Sometimes they might change a bathroom to an entrance because they feel adoptive parents would feel bad thinking their child was found in a bathroom (the perfect finding location actually, since it is immensely private, but onversely very public).

I have researched thousands of finding locations, and have never seen evidence to show wide-spread fabrication. We often bump into witnesses who recount details of the finding.

I believe that most directors try to present accurate information.


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting there is no mention of adoption at all, neither domestic nor international. Especially interesting is the line about children who are physically and mentally healthy being able to get an education through the SWI. I thought most of the kids in SWIs these days were special needs and that ALL healthy infants were adopted. Hmmm....
Thanks for the great information Brian. Keep up the good work!

Research-China.Org said...


I think the point of the article was child abandonment, not what happens to them once they are turned over to the State.


Anonymous said...

Anecdotal at best... Very sad...No proof that this situation applies to other reasons for abandonment of babies in China.. It would be better to also consider that the father gave up his children because he did not understand the long term prognosis for his children... I doubt monetary reasons were the main reasons.. too bad the journalist did not talk to the mother of these children.... these kind of interviews are difficult to interprete....

Anonymous said...

1: A reader said, "It would be better to also consider that the father gave up his children because he did not understand the long term prognosis for his children." Living in China, I have been shocked at what people believe/don't believe. For example, they strongly believe that if a woman does not rest for the first month after child birth, her health will definitely suffer when she is old. They truly believe that a child's health will be poor if they are not dressed in several layers during the winter. And to address the above comment, if the child was born unhealthy, the child will remain unhealthy. These ideas are so ingrained in the culture, that they will be SLOW, SLOW, SLOW to change.

2. Something I have not been able to figure out... The article stated that they are often unable to locate the birth parents, often because they are migrant workers. An ID card is required when registering to stay at the hospital, right? (At least it was when I gave birth to our child.) Since an ID card is required to do just about anything in China (something as simple as getting a mobile phone number), doesn't it seem that if the authorities REALLY wanted to find the parents, they could? Do you think they are really looking, or do you think they are mostly ignoring the problem?

Anonymous said...

Brian, is there any translation available for the Dutch interview video?

Research-China.Org said...

Anonymous is completely correct with the amount of "folk wisdom" that is found in the Chinese culture. As a future article will show, many also believe that if something happens to one of the children in a twin-set, bad luck will follow not just the other child but the entire family.

You are also right about the ID requirements. In my research and conversations with finders, my impression is that little serious investigative work is done to locate birth parents. It really is a "look the other way" issue.


Research-China.Org said...

A translation of the Dutch broadcast was made available on many adoption groups such as A-P-C, Global Adoption Triad, etc. Look around February 1, 2007 for related postings.


Anonymous said...

Brian, thanks for posting these. I look forward (if it's possible to say that) to reading more of these interviews. I appreciate your candor about the difficulty of representative sampling on this issue. I'm a social scientist, both qualitative and quantitative, and I understand your desire to put this information in context. We know so little about abandonment that these are valuable stories, even as we're aware that there are many more we're not hearing.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that the belief in "folk wisdom" is stronger than the bond between parent and child. I, too, would be interested in hearing the mother's views on this.

It's just so illogical and so cold.

I could condemn it and all the other cultural causes of abandonment and wish it were not so but then I would not have my daughter.

Anonymous said...

Brian, related to the issue of ID requirements, do you know whether (or for how long) hospitals in China keep medical records of births and other inpatient stays? I'm interested because my daughter's finding site was near a hospital and I've been wondering whether there might be any documentation of her birth there.


Research-China.Org said...

Like most hospitals, the records are kept for a long time. The problem that I have experienced in investigating hospital records are two-fold: 1) after a fairly short time the records are "archived" in the basement, or elsewhere, and it is difficult to get anyone to do the work required to get the records; 2) It is hard to determine which record would belong to a specific child, since most hospitals have many births on any given day. Privacy issues (not in the Western-sense, but in the Chinese sense of revealing information that might come back to bite a person) usually prevents the obtaining of birth-family information for children born on a given day in the hospital.

So, the bottom line is that although there may be a lot of information in the hospitals, it is very difficult to mine it.


Anonymous said...

What is your opinion, Brian, on the culture of abandonment? Is this a deeply ingrained part of Asian cultures, and if it is, is it a result of what part of their religions or philosophies? Some people get angry when it is implied that child abandonment is an ingrained part of that culture, and it doesn't stem just from poverty. But this is the way it seems to me. Your thoughts?