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Feb 20, 201209:34 AMChina Mom

What's in a name?

Feb 20, 2012 - 09:34 AM

I recently read an article that China is going to ban giving surnames to children that will signal their orphan status. When a child is abandoned in China and taken to an orphanage, the director gives them their name.

For example, our daughter was at the Yujiang orphanage and for many years, children were given the surname of “Yu” to indicate their orphanage. Other children are named for where they were abandoned and still others are given the surname “Guo” or “Dang” to indicate they are in the care of the “State” or “Party.”

Surprisingly, our daughter’s orphanage director was way ahead of his time back in 2005 and had stopped the practice of giving the children in his care the surname of Yu. Yu is not a traditional Chinese name and any child growing up in that orphanage with that surname is essentially wearing a scarlet letter – tagged for life as an orphan.

But sometime around 2005, Director Wang started giving “his children” a different name: Wang. Yes, he gave them his last name, but Wang is one of the most common names in China and by doing so he gave these children a chance. If they weren’t adopted and grew up in the orphanage, they would leave with an “honorable name.”

And now, the Ministry of Civil Affairs in China plans to issue new regulations to prohibit all orphanages from using the naming conventions that make it easier for other Chinese speakers to guess that an individual is an orphan – which leads to a lifelong stigma.

It’s a step in the right direction for the many children who won’t be adopted and will grow up and out of the orphanages. But therein lies the problem. There are children growing up and out of the orphanages. And the government knows this. And instead of taking steps to find these children families and homes, they are merely making policies so that the rest of the country won’t know they were ever orphans in the first place.

China is doing what they do best: covering up the problem. Six years ago when we adopted our daughter, “The Great Slowdown” began. I’ve written about it in previous posts and I won’t go into it in detail now, but what was a six-to-seven month wait for our child at the time, suddenly became a year.  Today, families are waiting five to six years from the date their paperwork is submitted to China. That’s ridiculous.

China claims that domestic adoptions are up and abandonments are down and there just aren’t that many children available for adoption. News reports indicate that child trafficking has increased and it’s more and more difficult for orphanage directors to prove that children were truly abandoned and not stolen. Whatever the case, China has a problem that needs solved and – as usual – the children are suffering.

In the short term, I’m glad the government has implemented this policy on surnames. It removes a stigma that so many children and adults are living with in a country so concerned with family.

On the other hand, children wouldn’t need to worry about their surnames if they were being adopted into families. Fixing the surname problem is the least of China’s concerns. Fix the big problem: help the children.

Mar 1, 2012 11:55 am
 Posted by  honeybeemama

It is so sad that there is such difficulty with international adoption. I am thankful for so many families that have hearts to rescue abandoned children but so sad that we can't just cut through the red tape and get these children home more quickly. I have several friends who've adopted children from Haiti and it is truly a heartwrenching process to watch. I'm glad that you continue to stay up to date on what's going on in your daughter's home country so that you can be an advocate for her and other abandoned children and be their voice!

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Sarah Roe discovered the art of couponing in 2005 when her son was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies and the rising cost of medications and food made it difficult to feed her own family. By 2007, Sarah began teaching coupon workshops in Tulsa, Oklahoma and founded Tulsa's Coupon Queen, LLC

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