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Girl finds siblings over a decade after being abandoned by mother

05/20/2023 10:40 PM
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Image taken from Unsplash
Image taken from Unsplash

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) A 17-year-old girl who carried her then-infant brother to school in a rucksack over a decade ago after being abandoned by their mother has relocated her siblings, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The girl, now studying at Li Zhi High School, a juvenile reformatory school, shared her story at a school event on May 6 of how she carried her then-4-month-old brother in her school bag and took her other 2-year-old brother by hand to school when she was in first grade because there were no adults in the house that could take care of them, according to the school's principal Lin Chia-ju (林家如).

The girl said a teacher who saw she had brought her siblings to school was shocked and immediately reported the incident to social workers, resulting in the children being placed in three different foster families.

They have not seen each other in the years since, and she misses her brothers very much, the girl said, according to Lin.

While the girl was sharing her story, Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) was also at the event and pledged to find the girl's two brothers as soon as possible, Lin said.

Lin told reporters that the minister had ordered reformatory and social welfare agencies to jointly find the girl's two younger brothers, who were located on Wednesday.

Tsai told CNA Friday that the two brothers are doing fine and that the girl has been very happy to learn about them.

However, Tsai said that assessments conducted by social workers were still needed before the three siblings could be reunited.

In response to the case, Director of Social and Family Affairs Administration Chien Hui-jiuan (簡慧娟) told reporters on Friday thatthe 17-year-old girl was sent to the Li Zhi reformatory school in 2018, and is set to be released from the school's custody in July 2023.

The two brothers, meanwhile, switched to different child placement agencies twice, once in 2018 and the other time in 2020, Chien said.

"(The brothers) are currently not separated," Chien said.

The three siblings' mother visited the brothers in the agencies, most recently in November 2022, and another visit is expected to happen next week, Chien said.

According to social welfare officials, in Taiwan, children who face difficulties growing up - including parental abandonment, abuse or improper care - will be placed in the care of family members.

If no such people are qualified, the officials will look for eligible foster families, while child placement agencies are the last choice, based on the law.

Concerning the case, Control Yuan member Wang Mei-yu (王美玉) said on Friday that although it can be hard for a single foster family to accept the placement of three children, it was important that the law be further amended because siblings should not be deprived of their rights to reunite or live together.

Wang said that the law related to child placement had already been revised once in 2003 to tackle the problems that could be caused by placing siblings in different foster families or agencies. However, the case of the three siblings showed that the amended law is still less than perfect, she said.

In addition, Wang urged the government and society to build a stronger social safety net to prevent children or teenagers growing up in high-risk environments from becoming "crossover children" -- underage persons who lack meaningful parental presence in his or her life and partakes in delinquent behavior.

(By Hsieh Shing-en, Tseng I-ning, Shen Pei-yao, Lai Yu-chen and Evelyn Yang)


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