2017-05-23 10:20:47

A 4-year-old boy has been left stranded at a kindergarten in eastern China for one week after the breakdown of his parents’ marriage, reports local Chinese media.

According to the Qianjiang Evening News, the boy’s father dropped him off on May 16 and has not yet returned to claim him. On the first day, neither the mother nor the father could be contacted. On the third day, local police managed to reach both parents, although neither agreed to take their son home. The boy’s mother said she was afraid to return for fear of violence from her husband, while the father, who had by then returned to his hometown in Guizhou, in southwestern China, said he would not look after the child without help from his wife.

The young boy is enrolled in a kindergarten in Yueqing, Zhejiang province, although his parents are originally from Guizhou, around 2,000 kilometers away. While teachers knew of his parents’ recent separation, they were nonetheless shocked when neither came to pick up their son, according to the report.

“The boy was absent from school from time to time, for two days or a week. His father would occasionally take him to look for his mother,” said the director of the kindergarten, a woman surnamed Zhao, who has taken the boy into her care. “Most of the time, the child stays silent, trying not to show emotion.”

Beijing-based social worker Li Zikun thinks this situation could prove “devastating” to a child of 4 years, whose whole world is centered on his parents. “A kid below the age of 6 has no social network beyond their parents. If they completely disappear from their world, the trauma could stay with them for the rest of their life,” said Li, who offers psychological support to orphans and minors in adverse circumstances.

Li highlights that China has no dedicated facilities to help abandoned children whose parents are alive. According to China’s criminal law, people who abandon a child, an elderly person, or a sick person with no ability to survive independently can be punished with a five-year maximum sentence. However, Li suggested that parents are seldom punished for abandoning offspring, with police instead issuing verbal warnings that bear no legal consequences.

A 2013 report on child welfare in China revealed that around 100,000 children are abandoned every year; most are female infants or children born with disabilities. Cases of toddlers being abandoned are uncommon in China, but they do happen. In September 2014, a 4-year-old boy was left at Kang’an Center Kindergarten in Harbin, in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province.

Speaking to Sixth Tone, Lü Xiaoqiu, who runs the kindergarten in Harbin, recalled that after the child’s mother left him there, it was more than a month before the boy’s grandfather agreed to take him home. “The psychological damage that has been done to the child will only diminish if he returns to a healthy family environment and receives plenty of love and care from both parents,” Lü told Sixth Tone. Sadly, for this boy, his parents were not married, and the father refused to acknowledge the child’s existence.

The Yueqing kindergarten in Zhejiang is still waiting for updates from the local police. Although the parents promised that they would come back to pick up their son a couple of days ago, they have failed to return.

It is estimated that a quarter of married women in China have experienced some form of violence from their partner, according to a 2011 survey by the All-China Women’s Federation with over 100,000 respondents. The rate of domestic violence is believed to be particularly high among Chinese women who are HIV-positive or who live in rural areas.

A local court in Beijing studied divorce cases involving rural women and found that out of the 399 cases examined, 329 of the women — more than 82 percent — said they had experienced domestic violence.

Editor: Sarah O’Meara.

(Header image: A child looks through a window at a kindergarten in Beijing, June 30, 2010. Wang Yixuan/VCG)