Category: Two-Child Policy

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Many children with special needs in China are denied educational opportunities because China’s public schools are literally inaccessible to children with physical disabilities and they don’t have the resources to support children with mental disabilities. It is an unfortunate fact that many Chinese families view their children as their support network as they age. If a child has any disadvantage that would hamper their ability to provide for their parents when they are adults, parents often have to make the heartwrenching decision to put the child up for adoption and try again. While many children with disabilities could still be productive adults capable or caring for their parents, that possibility becomes nearly impossible without access to education.

Back to school fun!

As an aside, this is a problem not just in China but worldwide, that people with disabilities earn less money than their able-bodied counterparts. In America, disabled people earn on average 68 cents for every dollar their non-disabled counterparts earn, while in the UK, disabled persons often earn as little a 40 cents on the dollar compared to non-disabled workers. Of course, in those countries, that is an employment issue. When it comes to education, both countries are much better at making sure all children – no matter their disability – have access to schooling. In China, when a child does not have access to education, the chance that the child will then be able to have a productive career is almost non-existent.

But there are even more hurdles for families in China trying to access education for their children. When the public schools are not an option, some families with the means will turn to private schools. These schools are usually much smaller with many more resources than public schools. And since they are for-profit, they generally will do whatever they can to accommodate families with special requests.

But sometimes those “special requests” clash when it comes to children with special needs – and there is significant prejudice and ignorance when it comes to children with special needs.

Our daughter has unique challenges, but we found a fantastic kindergarten in Yangshuo for her. The school’s principal used to work in the adoption field, so she really understands our daughter’s needs. The teachers are very kind and patient and go out of their way to make sure our daughter gets the most out of her classes. The classes are also very small, which has given our daughter the chance to improve her social skills in a way that is not overwhelming for her. It has been a wonderful experience and in the six months she has been going to school, she has made remarkable improvements.

But apparently, things were not going so smoothly behind the scenes.

Our daughter’s principal is a secret badass.

The school’s principal told me yesterday that there is another mother with a daughter with special needs who would like to attend the school. Some of the other mothers found out about this and have vehemently objected to admitting the child, even going so far as to say that they will remove their children from the school if she is admitted. These mothers believe that the child with special needs will have a “negative effect” on their own children.

I was very surprised because our daughter has been attending for several months. The other mothers must see this and know that having a special needs child in a class does not hurt the other children. It is usually the other way around. The children who are more able are able to help the children who need the extra attention. I asked her if there was anything we could do to help. But that was when she dropped the bombshell.

“The other mothers don’t want your daughter to attend school here either.”

I am sure the shock and anger showed on my face because she was quick to tell me that we didn’t need to worry about it. She could handle the other mothers. The implication was that since we are foreigners, our daughter’s enrollment in the school is not up for debate. Even in a country where we are a significant minority, our white privilege is strong. But since the other mother is Chinese, the other mothers feel they have the right to bully her and her daughter out of the school.

I share stories like this to better exemplify the challenges parents in China face when their children have disabilities. Many times, even money cannot overcome prejudice and ignorance. It will take a drastic overhaul in both policy and attitudes before parents in China will be able to access quality education for their very special children.

The Children Everyone Wants

The Children Everyone Wants

“Why do you want to adopt a baby no one else wants?”

This is one of the most common and offensive questions when it comes to adoption. Many people are genuinely curious about the adoption process, which is understandable, and I’m happy to help educate people about the joys of building their family through adoption. But the idea that adopted children are people “no one wants” is wrong.

While some birth parents might give up their children because they weren’t ready to become a parent, for the most part, parents who put their children up for adoption here in China want to keep their children. Birth control pills, condoms, and abortions are all readily accessible here. And while China’s sex-ed is lacking and unwanted/unexpected pregnancies do happen, almost 100% of children who are abandoned here in China have a significant special need. These parents want to parent their children. It is only because of extreme circumstances that they are forced to relinquish their kids.

There are two main driving forces resulting in abandonment and adoption in China.

The first is China’s family planning policy. Once a one-child policy, now a two-child policy, it really doesn’t matter how many children the government wants to include in their draconian method of unnecessarily controlling the country’s population. By limiting how many children a family can have, parents are forced to make horrifying choices that most of us in the world can never imagine.

You might be able to sit in the comfort of your home and think, “I could never give up my child just because the government told me to,” but you’ve never had the government actually tell you that. If a government official came into your home today and told you that if you didn’t give up your much-loved second child, you would lose your job and your home, you would not be able to access healthcare, and your other child would not be able to go to school, what would you do? Really? Again, it is so easy to say, “I’d rather be homeless” when you have a home. I know this sounds like something out a dystopian novel, but it has been going on here in China – for every single family – for more than thirty years. Countless loved, wanted children have ended up in the adoption system because of this disgusting policy.

And the family planning policy extends to adoption. There are actually many families in China who would love to adopt but can’t because they already have one or two children. Chinese adoptees are not “unwanted” by their birth families or by Chinese adoptive families – they are simply not allowed to stay with their families or be adopted. In Xinran’s book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother, she gets deeply personal about her experience trying to adopt a little girl after she had already given birth to her son.

Being forced to have only a limited number of children feeds directly into the second reason many children are abandoned in China – no access to medical services for children with special needs.

Here in China, it is extremely rare to see people with disabilities. I can count on one hand how many people in wheelchairs I have seen. Or blind people. Or people using sign language.

This is a bit of circular reasoning. In China, there are no services for disabled persons. For example, there are many places you simply cannot access if you are in a wheelchair. Therefore, you never see disabled people in public. So why build services for disabled persons if there aren’t any in public? But you never see them in public because there are no services for them…and so on.

When it comes to having children, many people realize the difficulties that people with disabilities face. Chinese families also have a very dependent set-up. There is no social security system from the government or retirement benefits from your employer. Parents raise their children, and the children show thanks by supporting their parents in their old age. If a child is born with a disability, the likelihood that the child will then be able to earn enough to support their parent later is greatly diminished. So many children with disabilities are abandoned at birth or abandoned later if a healthier sibling comes along.

Even if a family wanted to keep the child with a disability, as I already said, the services don’t exist. Where we currently live, speech and physical therapists don’t exist. And even if they did, many people won’t know what they are, how to access them, or be able to afford them.

Even though my husband and I have access to top quality medical care and have the money to pursue it, raising a child with special needs is hard. There have been many days when I have felt frustrated and alone and worry about our daughter’s future. I can’t imagine the agony our daughter’s birth parents endured before they made the painful decision to let her go.

So before you think – or hear someone else say – that an adoptee was “unwanted,” stop. The child was probably desperatly loved and wanted by far more people than you realize.

Interview with Xinran, the Author of Buy Me The Sky

Interview with Xinran, the Author of Buy Me The Sky

Author Xinran
Author Xinran

Most readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of the author Xinran. I reviewed her book “The Good Women of China” here and wrote about her book “Letters From an Unknown Chinese Mother” here. Her latest book “Buy Me The Sky: The remarkable truth of China’s one-child generations” talks about the children who have grown up under China’s one-child policy, something else I have written about quite a bit. 

I am so honored that Xinran agreed to talk with me about her new book! 

1)      Tell me about yourself.
 
I am…
A Chinese daughter, but doesn’t know very much about her parents’ life because of China’s political past which her parents never wanted to talk about it between 1950’s to 1970’s.
A Chinese mother, but doesn’t know much about her only child, because he grows up between Chinese culture and western culture, in his bilingual languages and screened knowledge.
A British husband’s wife, but doesn’t know much about her husband’s culture and adopted western society because her limited English and world knowledge.
A Chinese woman, but doesn’t know much about her roots country because China has changed so fast in last 30 years, there is no so such a historical record/lesson to learn from it.
A Chinese writer, but is still struggling to understand why the history is so unfair to women, and is trying hard to get Chinese hidden voices out.
 
2)      How did you become a writer?
 
Driven by a childhood dream, grow up with a passion and everyday hard trying of listening, observation, and thinking.
 
3)      How did you come to write Buy Me the Sky?
 
buy me the skyDuring over thirty years research on today’s China, I have shocked by some facts which have happened to the most families under One Child Policy, therefore I want to find the answers to these questions and to send an invitation out for people could listen to their answers:
 
— ‘Is the mother keeping her child as a pet, or is the child keeping her parents as slaves, to be at her beck and call with every wave of her hand?!
— Is One Child Policy much more powerful than any kind of the beliefs rooted in culture, religion, education, and living environments?
— They all belong to the first generation of the One Child Policy, they have completely different views on China, the world, and the concept of a quality life because of their family backgrounds, living conditions, and their pursuit of different ideals. But is there any point they could agree with their family elders after their long march under One Child Policy?
 
4)      At the end of each story, you ask the young people you talked to about the Yao Jiaxin incident. Why did you feel it was important to get their views on that?
 
Yes, it could help readers to understand there is no such a Chinese and single China there, young Chinese have very different knowledge and views on Yao’s case because the difference of their living condition and family backgrounds, also between rich and poor, city and countryside, and even between 5 years age!
 
5)      Why do you think only-children in China are so different from only-children born in other countries?
 
A child lives in an adult society must be completely different from a child lives in a society with many other children…
Or we say, English lives in Beijing, in a Chinese Hotong, must feel very different from she/he lives in a building which is full of English speakers…
Childhood society/family culture is the first education/brainwash in our life!
 
6)      What do you think of China’s new two-child policy? Do you think it will effect much change in the short or long term?
 
One Child Policy, as anything, likes a coin with two sides, (in fact it should be three sides):
In the last three decades, under the One Child Policy, China has prevented 400 million people from coming into this world, buying FOUR years for the world population to reach 6 billion. In this point, One Child Policy is a gift to the earth by its birth control, saving energy, giving more space to all of life being. AND China had got a chance to recover from nearly one hundred years civil war, from a very poor country to today’s big rich country.
 
But, China has paid high price for it.  This policy has led Chinese families jumped a history queue, BEFORE Chinese could have had a time to build up a ‘ready knowledge and support system’ for the one child society, as I have mentioned in my article sent to you:    
According to China’s sixth census in Oct 2014, by 2020 there will be 30 million more males than females among the age group of 20 to 45 year olds in China. More than 150,000 Western families have adopted Chinese orphans, mainly girls, since 1991. And also, the most important part of Chinese tradition is our family value which has rooted and shaped Chinese culture and society, but it has been damaged by single children society. Chinese become confused by its social disorders, its rule-less family structure, and polluted by some western celebrity culture, and even drugged sexual behaviours without enough education and any learning process.
 
I hope ‘two children policy’ is not too late.
I wish more and more hard working young parents could realise that their beloved only child won’t have a real sharing and quality life by lives by her/his own, because money can’t buy a happy family and peaceful sleep!
It might take more two generations for Chinese to realise how much Chinese tradition and society have been damaged by this policy.
 
7)      What are you working on next?
 
I am working on my new book ‘Talking Love’ a family dating history through its four generations.
 
8)      Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
 
Great thanks for this question with your cares!
 
2063-07_09_07-image_2_lg2I set up a charity called The Mothers’ Bridge of Love (MBL) (UK registration number 1105543) with a group of volunteers in 2004.  MBL’s aim is to provide Chinese cultural support to children in all corners of the world, by creating a bridge of understanding between China and the West, and between birth and adoptive cultures, and helping education in rural China. 
 
After ten years MBL’s achievements of assistance, advice and educational activities to adoptive families around the world, supporting a number of disaster relief and built 15 libraries for some migrant workers’ children, and children living in rural countryside in China, now MBL invites my readers and families from all over the world to support MBL for giving more children with reading possibility in rural China.
You can read all of my author interviews here. 
Don’t forget to enter our monthly giveaway! You can learn more about this month’s prize here. 
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China’s Family Planning Policies Still Firmly in Place

China’s Family Planning Policies Still Firmly in Place

Don’t worry, everyone. China still has the most brutal and backward family planning policies in the world.

I work at a newspaper, but the biggest news in weeks broke while I was on my way home for the weekend Thursday night. In the 45-minutes it took to get from my office to my home, my Facebook, Twitter, and in-boxes were filled with two things – celebration over the end of China’s decades-old One-Child Policy and questions asking me what is really going on over here. So let me explain what China’s new Two-Child Policy actually means.

This is only a proposal.

The Two-Child Policy has not been approved by China’s government yet. Couples are not yet safe to have two children. It will still take several months for the policy to be accepted by the government and then it could take up to a year to be adopted nationwide. When the government eased restrictions two years ago, it took over a year for the policy to take effect here in Shenzhen. That means that if a woman was to get pregnant with an unapproved second child tomorrow, she would still be in violation of the law and have to pay a huge fine or risk her child being denied a hukou or be forced to terminate the pregnancy.

All Chinese couples can eventually have two children.


Two years ago, China already relaxed the One-Child Policy and announced that in families where one of the parents was an only child, the couple could have two children. The new policy will allow all couples to have two children.

But they have to apply for it.

You can’t just go out and get pregnant in China. You have to apply for permission, even for a first child. The same is now true of a second child – you have to ask the government if it is okay first.

You Can’t Undo Decades of Brainwashing Overnight

China’s insistence that families should only have one child pre-date the current One-Child Policy. Even though Mao initially encouraged families to have as many children as possible to spur the economy, by 1970 the government had serious concerns about the country’s population explosion and began “encouraging” people to marry later and have as few children as possible. The official One-Child Policy was enacted by 1980. Most people of child-bearing age today have only lived under the One-Child Policy.

0023ae606e661487576653The One-Child Policy isn’t simply a rule like “wear your seat belt” that most people begrudgingly accept. It has been pounded into their minds that having only one child is their moral and patriotic duty. To have more than one child would be to betray China. The punishments for violating the policy have been strict and brutal, creating a culture of fear of the government and authorities. Forced abortions are still commonplace today. Abortion under duress even more so. Families who violate the policy have to pay huge, life-crushing fines. Families who cannot pay the fines can be denied jobs and housing. Children born outside the policy are denied personhood, by which I mean they are denied a hukou or official registration. Hukou-less persons are denied schooling, healthcare, housing, jobs, bank accounts, train/bus/airplane tickets, and cannot marry. They don’t exist in their own country. They also can never leave because they cannot apply for a passport.

People in China also believe that having a second child is too expensive. When you only have one child, it is easy to think that that child has to have the best life – the best clothes, the best education, live in the best neighborhood, go to the best college, and so on. Because of this, many people believe their expenses for raising a second child will double. Instead of finding ways to cut costs by sending them to a less expensive school, many families who qualify for a second child opt out because of financial concerns.

After living your whole life in this kind of environment, it is difficult to suddenly change your way of thinking and have a second child.

Last year, when the restrictions were first eased, the government estimated that 90 million children could be born under the new policy. Only around 250,000 were. Here in Shenzhen, it was estimated that 25,000 couples qualified to have a second child. Only around 1,500 were born – in a city of 14 million people. The effect of a limited second-child policy was almost negligible. Some scholars estimate it will take 70-100 years for China’s birthrate to return to normal.

Current Second Children Born Outside the One-Child Policy Will Still Be Denied Personhood

There has been no indication that current second children who were born outside the One-Child Policy will be granted clemency. Their parents still broke the law and they and their children must suffer for that.

Any child born outside the Two-Child Policy Will Be Denied Personhood

Any child born outside the new two-child policy will still be denied a hukou.

Women Who Get Pregnant Outside China’s Family Planning Polices Are Punished

4070983756_5cb8c3d315China’s Family Planning Policies go beyond the One-Child Policy. In China, women who get pregnant out of wedlock can be legally fired from their job. Women who have a child out of wedlock can be denied housing. Women who have a child out of wedlock are subject to the same fines as couples who have children outside the One-Child Policy. Chinese women who are not married are not allowed to store their eggs for future fertility treatments.

And, of course, children born to women who are not married can also be denied personhood.

Just to be clear, men cannot be fired from their jobs nor are they fined for having a child out of wedlock.

Nothing Has Changed

Long story short – this isn’t good enough. China’s family planning policies are still in violation of basic human rights. Do not give China any kudos for this. Only when China ends all of its family planning policies and every person in China is recognized as a human being will it be good enough.

What do you think about the new Two-Child Policy? Do you think it will have much of an effect? Let me know what you think in the comments.