A case of neglected, abused children
By William Steele
My wife teaches in a private school on an E2 visa. I have a dependent's visa (F3) and I am an unpaid part time volunteer at the school.
My wife has a child in her grade 1 class who is grossly neglected by her mother. The child has a sister, also a student in the school. These children have told their teachers that when they go home from school they are alone most evenings until midnight. They usually cook for themselves. They have no one to help with their homework. These children are showing signs of severe emotional disturbance. My wife's student is very aggressive and bullies the other children. Her sister is extremely withdrawn and emotionally unattached.
My wife and I, the teacher of the girl's sister, and the vice principal recently met with the mother to talk with her about her neglect and the behavioral problems of her daughters. This mother said that she will deal severely with her daughter for bullying. We explained to her that her daughters need care, love and affection, not punishment. She said that she is too busy with studies in a theological college to care for her children, and that she reads the Bible and prays every night when she gets home. (The children put themselves to bed alone). This mother said that because she is too busy to take care of them God will take care of them. We explained that if she does not care for her children, then God won't either. We suggested that she have someone care for her children while she is not at home. She said that she does not believe in other people taking care of her children.
As a Christian and pastor, I find myself embarrassed by this belief that God will care for children neglected by their parents. God takes care of children through their parents. Neglect and abuse continue because we are too ashamed to admit it. We think that we should keep it within the family. Christians hide these realities because they bring shame to Christ and the church. But only by exposing such shameful neglect and abuse can they be corrected.
The mother told us that she thinks that the withdrawn child is autistic. We asked if she had had her tested. She said ``no." We advised her to have her daughter tested for autism. She refused. The director of our school has talked to her about these problems, to no avail. He also talked with the mother’s pastor about this problem. The pastor said that this is a family matter and that he cannot interfere. I find this strange in the light of the fact that the task of a pastor is to admonish his congregation.
If we were in North America or Europe we would be required by law to report this neglect and child abuse to a child protection agency, which would intervene and remove the children to places of safety where they would be cared for. We talked with a counselor from the Office for the Prevention of Family Violence. But she told us that under Korean law there is nothing we can do to help these children. So I am writing to The Korea Times in order to have this lack of child protection brought to the notice of the public, and hopefully the members of the Korean legislature. The two teachers of these children, the vice principal and I are deeply concerned for them and we feel helpless.
If someone can help these and any other neglected and abused children in Korea we hope that they, and the legislators, will. We believe that legislation to protect children should be put in place to bring Korean law into harmony with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Korea is a signatory.
Please excuse a foreigner admonishing Koreans concerning your laws and child-rearing practices. I think that my involvement with these children as a volunteer calls me to seek their protection.
This paper withholds the writer’s personal information to avoid possible repercussions for the children, as he requested. ― Ed.