LWB Community Blog

What’s In A Name?

The government of China has officially announced that it will ban child welfare institutions from giving new children coming into their care generic names like “state” or “party.” China Daily reported the news this past week (click here to see the full article).

All of us at LWB are very happy by this decision. I have personally seen the effects of children having names that automatically brand them as orphaned. We have had to push extremely hard over the years to get older orphaned children into school programs or hired by companies because of the stigma and discrimination that still surrounds anyone with this label in China. I vividly remember trying to start a vocational training program for some teens who were aging out of one orphanage. We were trying to find local businesses to teach the kids how to do a trade such as electrical work or cabinetry. The frustrating conversation went something like this:

Company Owner: We don’t want to hire them as they will bring bad luck to our business.

Me: What do you mean they would bring bad luck? These are really nice kids who just need a chance.

Owner: But they are orphans, and everyone knows orphans bring bad luck. It’s too risky for our company to have them here.

Sadly, especially in many rural areas, this stigma is still very strong surrounding children who grow up in institutional care. Many companies are hesitant to hire orphaned children because they feel it will be bad for their bottom line. And many top tier schools don’t wish to enroll children living in social welfare institutions because they feel families won’t choose their facility if their kids have to attend with anyone who is “unlucky.”

Before this new policy, many orphanages made up names for the children, such as naming the kids after the location where they were found. Both of my children adopted from China, for example, have created surnames. When a child doesn’t have an accepted and known last name in China, such as Li or Zhang, it automatically lets everyone in the community know the child doesn’t have a family. It brands them as an outsider. When the kids apply for school or apply for a job, they are immediately seen as someone lower. Their names keep them from ever feeling like they could start fresh or have a fair chance.

This national policy is a wonderful step towards making sure new children entering the Chinese orphanage system, like the little one above, are not labeled for life as someone to be pitied or avoided. We are very grateful to see this change. No longer will an orphaned child’s last name tell the world they grew up without parents.

~Amy Eldridge, Executive Director

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