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The Land of Smiles

 

children-left-behind-ENG

 

Thailand or “the Land of Smiles” has a warm climate with endless sun shinning upon plentiful fruit trees. It’s a country known by it’s multitude of extravagent Buddhist temples and extrordinarily friendly people. According to Thai culture, hospitality to family is valued above everything else. Maintaining one’s independence in life is of a lesser importance than taking care of the family. It’s a common gesture to welcome anyone who needs food and shelter into the household.

The family system is strong as grandparents, parents, children, as well as aunts, cousins, in-laws, and other extended family members tend to live in the same house or home system. It’s seen as honorable for the parents to work even if that means they have to be separated from their children. They sacrifice time with their kids to give their children a better life than they had with the money they earn. This in turn earns the parents a merit (In Buddhism, a result of good deeds that carry over the person’s lifetime).

Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.

“Every child has the right to grow up in a caring, loving, and safe environment” expresses the head of UNICEF Thailand.  A year studying the issue and findings are continuing to develop to show the effects of parental migration. In the first portion there was a 9% difference when comparing children with developmental delays. Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.

3 Million, or about 21% of Thailand’s population, are left behind children being raised by extended family mostly in rural areas. 90% live with grandparents, most of whom have only a primary school education, and are at risk themselves of financial instability and mental health issues. These children are often behind in language skills in school and have behavior problems. Grandparents and young children have an age gap that often hinders their ability to relate to the pain they feel, which limits conversation and opportunity for personal growth.

See Video: http://www.bangkokpost.com/multimedia/vdo/thailand/419287/children-left-behind

Sources:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/interview/419215/separation-anxiety

http://www.unicef.org/eapro/media_22694.html

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CNN Reports on Sexual Abuse

“When you have 61 million children who cannot relate to their parents, it is very traumatizing for a society,” Sanna Johnson.

cnn_LBCchild

What if a child was sexually abused at school, but there’s no parent at home to tell?

It is the case for left behind children. They are named “easy targets” for sexual abuse and haressment.

Chen left his daughter to be raised by his grandmother in a supposedly safe, sleepy place. She called sounding depressed and like something was not right. Later she said it hurts down there. It was discovered that she was abused by her teacher who also abused five other victims under the age of 14.

Around 250 million have migrated to the cities escaping from poor areas with limited job opportunities. Children of these parents are extremely vulnerable. Parents send them presents in place of themselves. They begin to value materialism above anything else. Sexual predators often take advantage and give them gifts to reel them in. Huazhou in Guangdong province reported 94% of sexual abuse cases involving left behind children. They have limited supervision, no safety precautions, and have no education about self-protection.

As a result of Chen’s case, he is fighting to bring justice against his daughter’s assailant. There have been safety meetings to educate and guarantee the safety of the school’s children. Parents need to teach children not to take rides from strangers. Parents should say not to walk across the street without a buddy. Without the appropriate education and supervision, children are left unprotected and extremely vulnerable to predators.

The All-China Women’s Federation realizes this. They are calling for an increase of the care for left behind children. They wish to put into place official guardians taking responsibility for providing safe custody. The CWF is asking the government to set up a protection system for the children to turn to. Left behind children report feelings of abandonment and guilt. They think they are a burden to their parents. It is difficult psychologically and emotionally they struggle. What should we do? EDUCATE! Educate others about the effects of migration on family systems. Educate left behind children about self-care, self-respect, and safety matters. We can act and save millions!

Check out the largest migration on the planet –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcGnvTL0NdY

Sources:

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/04/world/asia/china-children-left-behind/

http://www.china.org.cn/china/2013-08/09/content_29672476.htm

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Diaries of Left-Behind Children

One of the largest migrations in human history, rural poor workers are traveling to cities where the jobs are. China’s economic boom is partly caused by an increase of migrant workers willing to work for low wages. The high costs of living and long work hours force parents to leave children to be raised with grandparents in the villages until they earn the money to take them to the city.

A young girl talks to her parents over the phone while they are away. She is the first to use the free phone at school. It is a difficult call to make. She cries saying, “I’m not used to chatting with them…usually I just answer their questions,” (Youtube). 

It is heart-breaking to hear the individual stories of children apart from their parents who are living in the city to work. A teacher at the end of the video implores the public to see that left-behind children are hard-working and independent. At the same time they lack the ability to trust others. 

A plea for time off was discovered on the door of Jianba hairdressers in the southern city of Zhuzhou. Hairdresser Wu Hongwe addressed the note to customers with the message, “I got a call from my daughter yesterday. I have been away from her so long, she doesn’t even know how to call me ‘Daddy’ any more… I beg you for a week off to visit my family,” (Wan).  Wu’s daughter Beibei has become accustomed to calling her parents Mum and Dad, with the mentality that they are just their names. With so much time and distance between the child and her parents, they have become strangers to her. “Mama” has no meaning. The countryside where she lives is a healthy environment and has a low cost of living unlike her parents’ city. She grew up with her native dialect and has a difficult time understanding her mother’s Chinese.

What hurts her parents the most is that their daughter does not know what it is like to have a mother. They have set a goal of working to gain enough money to bring her into the city by February this year.

Within the next week, there will be a research launch on “They are Parents: A Study on Migrant Workers of Left Behind Children in China” with conferences in Beijing and Shanghai. CCR CSR report launch will share a study from the perspective of working parents, (Zhang). We need to realize that these migrant parents do what they do because they think it is what is right for the well-being of their children. Don’t we all want what is best for our kids? Now we have the mission to provide the educational and social services to left-behind children to promote their emotional development. Global Children’s Vision strives to equip LBC with the tools to succeed in life.

Please refer to our site for more information about coming on a trip to China or making a donation.

Sources

http://www.ccrcsr.com/sites/default/files/Study%20Launch%20invitation_English_1212.pdf

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/chinas-parenting-problem-children-of-the-industrial-revolution-9045080.html

 

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The Case of Maria and Others Left Behind

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A tragic case is of 11 year old Maria, abused at home by her mother. The mother left her in the house for three months to work in Moscow then came back as an alcoholic. She beat her and had sex in front of her damaging her child emotionally with the abuse. This story is very common. A community in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, is suffering from economic and social breakdown caused by a collapse of state-run collective. “As a result, more than half of its working adults go abroad to earn a living wage,” (Milmo).

Another case of Adriana, 13, and 16 year old Gina moved in with their grandmother when there parents went to work in Moscow. Gina became pregnant, was banished, and lived in animal sheds. A study in 2005 found that 110,000 Moldovan children lived in a household where either one or both parents are absent,” (Milmo)

Left Behind Children are found across Europe. Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is another country dealing with temporary labor migration. This means that there is short term emigration from Lithuania parents who leave children to be cared for relatives. Most of the time it is undocumented. According to a 2007 study, 36 percent of children who stayed behind experience noticeable changes in behavior (VAITEKONIENĖ). The first case study recorded children left behind as anxious, lonely and lacking in confidence. The second case study found them to be suffering from anxiety and sadness, loss of appetite and sleep disorders. The final case study compared genders. Boys tend to develop emotional and behavioral disorders while girl are more likely to show symptoms of depression. The term “Left Behind” doesn’t seem to be used, but the problem and the solutions are similar.

Government officials have acted to raise awareness and bring about progress, A conference was held in the European Parliament in Brussels“Left Behind ‐ The impact of economic migration on children left behind and their families” addressed the issue of children left behind in the country of origin when parents move to another European country in search of employment. “This phenomenon is still underestimated and often unknown even if it concerns approximately half million children in the EU. The event gathered experts from across Europe to analyze the situation of transnational families in different European countries,” (eurochild). They addressed the effects of the migration on children and their families. The mission of Global Children’s Vision was also reflect in this conference by looking at the issue in a multi-dimentional perspective through the eyes of psychologists, sociologists, and public policy makers. Their publication on Children Left Behind is available here.
Sources
http://www.eurochild.org/en/events/details/index.html?tx_ttnews%5BpS%5D=1387864342&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=1627&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=287&cHash=dcb07a7928a165d97f945b0ee271bf47

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/independent-appeal-help-for-the-children-left-behind-2160539.html

http://www.lituanus.org/2010/10_3_06%20Vaitekoniene.html

 

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Parents in Temporary Labor Migration

mexicangirl

 

An article by Castaneda and Buck says family unit is more important than poverty for children illustrated in the dialogue below.

“You have it all. Good clothes. Good tennis shoes,”. . .

“I’d trade it all for my mother . . .  You can never get the love of a

mother from someone else” (Nazario 2006:xii).

Research studies show that transition is traumatic for the child. Whether it be a divorce or remarriage, a transition in the family structure impact’s a child’s poor school performance. When a child’s grades plummet, the teacher assumes something is happening in their home life. Family system disruption decreases the child’s chances of having healthy emotional and psychological development. Nobles (2006)  suggests that more than a third of Mexican children experience some type of household disruption during childhood,”(Cortes). Networks in indigenous rural areas helped next of kin, but very rarely provided assistance to non-family members. Migration brokers promise to help pay for the migration and while the parents works in a temporary labor position in America, they are expected to pay the broker or the family left behind is in debt. Mexican educational credentials are less important than US education. There is less incentive for the child to continue their education while the parent is away. Having migrant parents lowers the chance of boys completing junior high and girls completing high school. Migrant parents do not expect that the separation will cause they left behind children to suffer in school. Males tend to work to support left behind family and drop out of school. Females tend to dropout because of marriage. The Mexican community is known to criticize the migrant parent and in extension the child calling the parent a “social climber” and associating them with the negative image of illegal trafficking. This labeling causes the children to be looked down upon and margenalized. Safety issues  also arise from “lack of parental care, separated children and linkages with trafficking, recourse to institutionalization and child labour,” (Cortes). Parents work hard abroad to send money home to their families to improve their quality of life. The money sent home is given for the children. Teachers do not like the idea of the children having control over the money sent home.

From my personal observations on the opposite side of the issue, parental separation has detrimental effects on the child living in America. A child being raised in a Spanish-speaking community with the parent left behind in Mexico has the expectation in schools to learn how to read and write in English. The expectation in their household is to know both Spanish and English. The child often is raised in a home with grandparents, extended family members, and siblings who desperately want to visit Mexico to see their mom or dad. It is difficult for one to witness the drop in the child’s educational performance after the parent is away. The parent who sent the child to Americaa for a better life lives with extended family or friends. The parent wants to be with the child but there are so many factors against them. “A trip to the United States for most migrants involves physical danger, unpleasant working conditions, low social status, illegality, family separation, and other deterrents,” (Kandel and Kao) Migration is a tricky issue for the observer to fully understand. The parent works hard to provide the child with food, clothes, and a livelihood yet the impact of the disintegration of the family structure has many negative effects. This issue cannot be ignored by educators, child-care providers, or mental health counselors.

Lastly, the “abandonment” of parents not only hurt the child, but also impact the parent’s mental health. A study on parents who are left behind when children pirate to the United States were examined. Higher anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and a wish to die were significant psychological effects that were reported in the study (Arenas and Yahirun). It is therefore important to examine all sides to migration to effectively understand to impact of the family unit for one’s mental health and  education.

 

Sources

http://www.academia.edu/232141/_Left_Behind_The_Effect_of_Childrens_Migration_on_Parents_Mental_Health_in_Mexico_

http://www.childmigration.net/files/Rosalia_Cortes_07.pdf

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3092008?origin=JSTOR-pdf&

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1557-203X.2011.01136.x/abstract

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Left Behind Children as Baggage?

“US-China, two-way express. Pick up from airports, packages, children”.  Are children really listed as baggage? Our latest post was about the phenomenon of Left Behind Children who have foreign passports.  The fact that a sign mentions children as a thing to be shipped from one country to the next is commonly seen around China. Think about it. How did you respond when you first moved from one home to another or how did your children respond? It is difficult. Transition for children is always rough.

Transition is a trauma. Transitions of LBC from one home in China to another in the United States and back to China as a young child and then the journey to return to America at the time their parents earn enough money is the process many have to go through. It makes even my head dizzy to think about. Chinese children don’t acknowledge that they are sad moving or being away from their parents for long periods of time. It is uncommon in China for one to express oneself and especially to express what they are feeling. All they want is to do is to live with their parents, wherever they live.

China’s one-child policy can be evaluated within this context. Children do not have siblings and according to studies, the policy has increased the likelihood of these children becoming more pessimistic and less trusting (Abrams). What does this mean for the LBC issue you ask? If one goes through life alone without a mom or a dad providing love and comfort, it is lonely. Without a sibling to fight with, play with, and most importantly, to share the burden of being away from their parents, the child does not have anyone they can relate with.

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Left Behind children are left without siblings, without parents, and without a steady home life and stable family system.

“China’s rural-to-urban migration has affected… 22 million who have been left behind by their migrant parents,” (Xu). 22 million LBC have been affected and that number changes every day! A university study on well-being of migrant and LBC found significant results on left behind children who stay at home in rural areas while their parents are away working in cities. They suffer from reduced parental care and supervision. This causes a higher risk for psychological and behavioral issues (OCD, depression, etc.), and feelings of abandonment. They are more likely to disregard their education by dropping out of school or skipping classes. They feel like baggage to be transported. They feel like a burden to aging grandparents who are unable to relate and have a difficult time trying to raise the suffering child.

What can YOU do to empower these Left Behind Children? Educate yourself, discuss solutions, and act!

Lastly, I wanted to bring your attention to an event on December 5-6, 2013, when there will be an Inaugural WUN Global China Conference on Family Transition, Aging, and Social Security in China. One focus of the conference will discuss the implications of China’s growing economy on  Left Behind Children, defined for those involved in the conference those “who live with their grandparents or other relatives as their parents moved to the cities for employment,” (Heung). Could you imagine being raised by extend family – a grandparent or aunt – and have limited contact with your working parent? I look forward to what they come up with regarding one of the key issues on increasing  “family stability” and the results of their conversations about LBC. I bring up this conference to let you know that powerful research institution collaborations such as this “Worldwide Universities Network” are discussing and brainstorming solutions, which is something everyone has the ability to do.

Sources:

http://paa2013.princeton.edu/papers/131902

http://www.wun.ac.uk/events/inaugural-wun-global-china-conference-family-transition-ageing-and-social-security-china

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/study-the-new-less-social-psychology-of-chinas-generation-without-siblings/267057/

 

 

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