Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Unwanted Babies: China's Child Abandonment Crisis

                Unwanted babies are a common occurrence every day in China, where parents leave their newborn infants by the side of dirty sidewalks, on unhygienic storefronts, or in overflowing dumpsters without any explanation, in the hopes that the government will find and take care of them. Despite the illegal nature and harsh repercussions of child abandonment, parents feel they have no other choice if they want their child to have the best care possible. Even with the noblest intentions in mind, these abandoned babies often die within hours of being left behind. Every child should be able to live a full life without the threat of imminent death.
                Child abandonment is an issue of injustice because of the following reasons, all of which stem from China’s rigid One-Child Policy. This policy restricted families from having more than one child. Although effective, it was very vague with a handful of exceptions, such as if one parent had a hazardous occupation, if the family belonged to one of the Chinese minority tribes, or if the first child was a female (since having a son is more prestigious and advantageous than having a daughter). After the implementation of the One-Child Policy in 1979, couples were only allowed the birth of one child. This led to a plethora of causes for unwanted babies.
                As mentioned above, Chinese families prefer to have a male child than a female child. This particular gender preference comes from traditional norms, as men provide the possibility of passing on the family name and obtaining high income jobs to support their future families and aging parents. With this desired gender, couples whose first child is a daughter may decide to abandon their newborn in favor of trying again for a son. This occurs more frequently in rural areas, where the gender inequality gap dominates. As a result, female babies are left to die in these less populated locations without any chance of being found and turned towards government help.
Along with the deaths of female children are the deaths of disabled children, or those who require extensive and expensive medical treatment. Parents often abandon newborns who exhibit deformities or illnesses, such as cleft lip and cerebral palsy respectively, usually because of insufficient funds to pay for the necessary medical care. This highlights the most important reason for unwanted babies: low income. Money plays a significant role in any household, especially when children are involved. Families categorized as having a low income find themselves unable to provide the proper care for their children, so they look for the most promising solution for their children—abandonment.
To rectify this injustice, China has abolished the One-Child Policy, instead replacing it with a new family planning approach with the moniker, Two-Child Policy. This new law permits couples to have two children if one parent is an only child. It allows people to have more children without fear of violating the law. Another current remedy is the introduction of baby hatches, otherwise known as “baby safe islands,” where parents can anonymously leave their child in a safe, clean environment fully equipped with a crib and incubator. Once the parent exits the baby hatch, a bell will signal for a welfare worker to come and retrieve the child, who is later relocated to an orphanage. China is also developing further remedies, such as creating a medical insurance system for abandoned disabled children and a welfare support system for families with disabled children. The former helps fund abandoned children who have disabilities, deformities, and/or illnesses with their subsequent medical treatments, while the latter helps families with disabled children pay their medical bills by giving them a subsidy and reducing taxes.
Though these remedies are based in China, other individuals, like students, can participate in aiding the child abandonment problem through volunteer work and donations. There are a multitude of programs that promote volunteer work abroad in China’s orphanages, the main residence of abandoned children with disabilities. One organization called Chunmiao Little Flower has an entire page dedicated to aiding China’s unwanted babies, encouraging people to host fundraisers, make in-kind and online donations, and volunteer within their program. By utilizing these kinds of efforts, abandoned children in China will be able to live a better life. This injustice of child abandonment can slowly be eradicated.

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