From Joong Ang
Aug 12, 2003
By Jong Hoon Kim
Lim, a 74-year-old in Bayside, has been baby-sitting
for 8 years. She moved to the United States in 1996, after her
husband died, bringing
what remained as a fortune.
Life is not easy for her and her daughter
in New York City. She invested all the money in a dry-cleaner which
her daughter and
her son-in-law started, but the business failed; what’s worse,
the son-in-law got seriously ill so the family had to consume all
their financial resources.
Under the newly enacted law in 1996,
which prohibits welfare privileges to new immigrants once available,
she cannot get living expenses
or medical benefits from the local government. She manages three
meals at a senior citizens’ help center, sometimes using
food-stamps, and now started to make her living through baby-sitting.
decided to have a separate place from her daughter, who already
has difficulty taking care of her husband. A senior citizens’ apartment
complex, to which she applied, did not responded, though. She sighs, “I
don’t think I can continue this work, considering my age
and health. I hope I can be eligible for any type of senior benefits,
living in seniors’ apartment, and getting medical treatment.” She
added that she feels her joint-pain whenever she holds babies.
She could not have imagined herself baby-sitting before coming
to the United States.
One of the Korean elderly organizations reported that
many Korean elders work as baby-sitters, and including those who
of their grandchildren, the majority are raising children.
Yoon, a social worker from Queens Child Guidance Center, mentioned, “We
surveyed and interviewed 51 Korean elders from several seniors’ centers,
and found out more than 90 percent of them are participating child-care
work in regular basis.” Whereas
most American seniors raise kids after legally obtaining parental
rights, Korean seniors tend to take care of their grandchildren
for busy family, or work in “baby-sitting” without
Because the work is free-of-charge, many of these
elders are compensated with little or nothing, whereas many American
seniors are getting
HiHo Kim, from the Korean Counseling Center,
pointed out, “whether
it’s their own grandchildren or not, it is baby-sitting in
a strict sense. Despite being paid with a little gift or petty
cash from child’s parents, they cannot plan any type of senior
life or apply for a pension.”
He added, “Also, many
of them have trouble because of cultural differences and even get
involved in a law-enforcement branch for
a child-protection law violation.”
According to Yoon’s
survey, 80 percent of Korean seniors answered that they want to
learn the American way of raising children and
get used to the new culture. Korean seniors are not used to living
in America and are slow adjusting, only making their baby-sitting
work more difficult.
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Translated from Korean by Joo Yeon