What It Means to Age Out
What exactly does it mean to “age out”?
The National Chinese Government has made it a law that no child age 14 or older is allowed to be adopted. So, for a child who lives in an orphanage, their 14th birthday signals the end of their chance at having a permanent family.
Matthew, seen above in green, will turn 14 in September. I am certain that as happy as he looks in this photo, he is not looking forward to his birthday this year. Many in the Chinese culture believe that orphans are unlucky or even cursed. This belief can make life very difficult for orphans when they are trying to get an education or when they apply for a job. Some families do not want their children to go to school with a child with this stigma, and they make their feelings known.
The Chinese education system has varying levels of schooling. Many orphans attend the lowest levels as they have no way to pay for the higher level schooling. (When I say higher level, I am talking high school, not college.)
Even still, if an orphaned child makes it through college, they could have a difficult time finding a job if a company didn’t want to hire someone whom they felt was “unlucky”.
Another thing to consider is that come holiday season when everyone makes the mad dash to return home to be with their families, many orphaned children have nowhere to go and no family waiting for them.
Untold numbers of Chinese children will age out each year. Ben, whom we have featured several times, and Matthew, seen above, are only a few months away from facing these challenges.
Matthew has a wonderful spirit that has carried him through so much hardship already, but he needs a home and a family that he can call his own.When the holiday season comes this year, I am hopeful that Matthew will be enjoying it at home with his family. Please read more about Matthew on my friend Rob’s blog at Eyes Opened, Heart Changed, and share his story in the hope that he will not become yet another child to age out.
~Samantha Harris is LWB’s Hunan Secondary and Higher Education Program Coordinator