Families Charged With Child Abuse
By World Journal
20 May 2002
By Justin Yu
Parents in three Chinese families in New York City have been recently
reported by school teachers for child abuse because of their use
of physical punishment when disciplining their children.
The three recent cases occurred in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan
respectively, and some of the parents are facing criminal charges
and are required to report to the Family Court. Some of them are
separated from their children, who have been placed in foster homes,
and some are facing possible deportation.
Physical punishment is a common practice of child discipline in
Chinese culture, which is evident in a Chinese saying, "one
will not succeed without a spanking." However, the seemingly
common practice of Chinese parents of using physical punishment
on the their children is considered an abusive behavior under the
U.S. child protection law.
There are three children in the Xia family in Queens, from age
six to eight. The father travels frequently to China for business
and the mother is a professional translator. One day the eight-year-old
son refused to do his homework and was beaten on the arm by his
mother with a chicken-feather duster, leaving a red mark on the
arm. The next day, the son did not return home after school. The
mother went to school to look for him, only to find out that her
child has been taken away by the Administration for Children Services
(ACS) to a foster home.
Xia was told by school officials that ACS will investigate whether
she was involved in child abuse. As soon as she got home, the police
came and removed her six- and seven-year-old children from her house.
Though speaking fluent English, Xia was warned that she would be
arrested if she resisted. The two children cried hysterically as
they were taken away and were handed over to social workers at ACS,
who later transferred them to foster homes. Xia was immediately
arrested after police questioning and detained for a few days until
her lawyer bailed her out.
Xia, who has been living in the United States for years, said she
has been separated from her three children for weeks, and that she
has been exhausted from trips to the Family Court, calling the government
agencies "inhumane" for breaking up her family without
Xias husband, who was in China, immediately returned to the
United States upon learning of the incident to assist his wife with
the family legal dispute. He said the school was "making a
big fuss over a trivial matter".
In another case in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, a woman, surnamed Lee, asked
her daughter, a sixth grader, to go grocery shopping and realized
two hours later upon her daughters return that she had been
hanging out with friends. Lee got upset and hit her daughter with
a broom, causing scars on her legs. At her classmates encouragement,
the daughter reported the incident to her teacher, resulting in
the immediate arrest of her mother by the ACS and the police.
Separated from her daughter by the ACS, Lee has not seen her for
six months and has been financially burdened by legal fees.
Meanwhile, a father in Manhattans west side, surnamed Huang,
slapped his son for his misbehavior at home and left a five-finger
mark on his sons face. After being notified by the sons
teacher the next day, the ACS immediately removed the child from
his father and placed him in a foster home while waiting for further
police investigation. Huangs daughter, however, was not removed
because she was at her grandfathers home in Brooklyn when
the police officers came to remove the son.
Huang, who was bailed out by his lawyer after a short detention,
is still under police investigation. He is in the process of applying
for his permanent residency and may face criminal charges and Family
Court charges. If found guilty, Huang could be separated from his
children, denied a green card, and face possible deportation.
Under the U.S. law, a teacher, social worker, or doctor who learns
of potential child abuse must report it to the concerning government
agencies and might face punishment if he or she fails to do so.
Under such child protection law, many overly enthusiastic teachers,
social workers, ACS officials and prosecutors end up accusing Chinese
American families of child abuse although certain physical punishment
is considered common practice in the Chinese community, resulting
in immense psychological effects on the children and their parents.
Translated from Chinese by Larry Tung
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