Oh boy -- I'd thought about doing this a few times before and am actually following through this time. I very rarely get on reddit these days, but today have an unusually free swath of time (kids are prepping a performance of some kind for tomorrow's holiday) and thought I'd give it a shot. Maybe no one is interested, maybe some of you are, I guess I'm about to find out. Originally I was going to post this over in r/CasualIAmA, but thought I'd give it a shot here first. I am not the only redditor who is in this life position, there are a couple over on r/China, where I lurk, but hopefully it is still 'uncommon' enough!

Basic facts: I live in central China. I have been living here full-time for four years, but have been working here for three or four months out of every year, while providing stateside administrative assistance, for ten years. Originally I came in as a teacher and tutor but am now a full-time house parent to a handful of seven/eight-year-olds.

Throwaway because I'd rather be very, very honest and then run away and never look back.

Proof: I can post a photo of me with my local newspaper, or message my residence permit to the mods. Unsure how much else I can do? No pictures of the children, because that isn't cool.

Update 3:00 BST: My turn to get the kids from school in an hour, so I'll be around for perhaps another 30 minutes and then off to get them to eat/do homework/go to sleep. Thanks for the interest so far, I'll be back around this evening to talk more if there is anyone else who desires to communicate!

Update 9:50 BST I'm back!

Update 12:00 BST I'm off again, will check the topic one more time in the morning once I'm free (approximately eight hours). Thanks for making this so fun!

Update 8:30 BST I'm back again! Woo!

Comments: 95 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

gseurat12 karma


OrphanageYuangong7 karma

LOL, you are actually the person I was referring to when I said there are "a couple others". I am definitely up for it! We should also start the most bizarrely specific sub that reddit has ever seen.

pint_please8 karma

I've often heard that orphaned children tend to develop behavioral issues due to the lack of human contact and attention. Usually this is made worse in poorer orphanages where the number of staff barely meets the needs of the day to day tasks to keep all the children fed and clean much less give them individual attention.

How would you rate the orphanages you are working at in terms of providing the necessary affection and attention to the kids so that they don't grow up with abandonment and other psychological issues?

Also, how did you personally come to work at an orphanage in China? Do you feel your job is rewarding? How hopeful are you for the future prospects of the kids you look after?

OrphanageYuangong14 karma

The orphanage I work has a pretty good staff to child ratio, in that each staff person is responsible on a full-time basis for somewhere between six and twelve children. Yes, obviously, they are not receiving the same attention as they would in a one-child house, but they receive more than the Duggar kids (ha ha). Psychological support is one of the main projects I've worked on here, getting regular therapy sessions in place for those kids that truly need it while shouldering much of the cost as the government doesn't really see the need.

I personally came here after moving to China, teaching, meeting the right people, moving from a school to the orphanage, people realizing I was serious, and eventually becoming a normal staff person. It happened over a period of years, but generally once someone has proven they aren't in it for themselves and aren't running back home in a couple months, they are accepted.

My job is the most rewarding thing in the world, even if the kids don't all turn out perfect, even if I make mistakes, at least I am providing them with the love and care they wouldn't have otherwise.

I try to be hopeful. Try is the key word. A couple kids have dropped out of schools to work in factories, a common action even among non-orphaned children, and only two or three kids have ever made it to high school. No one has ever made it to college. It is a bummer, the system and the society are kind of stacked against them, but I do my best to make them contributing members of Chinese society. Only time will tell if I am successful.

HornyGundam7 karma

Saddest shit you've seen

OrphanageYuangong15 karma

Several dead infants, lying, waiting to be picked up for 'disposal'.

Honestly, too upsetting to get into detail about.

NomadBulldog6 karma

I heard a couple of years ago that the Chinese government has tried limiting or halting adoptions to foreign couples. Is this true? If so, has this affected the number of children in the orphanage? Have there been more Chinese couples seeking adoptions lately?

Also, what is the mainstream Chinese view on orphans?

OrphanageYuangong8 karma

Yes, foreign adoptions are more difficult than ever before. Unless you are adopting a handicapped child, you will be waiting several years before you actually have your child "in your arms". This has barely impacted the number of children in orphanages -- more and more in-country adoption is happening due to huge foster care system promotions (as the third question you have sort of gets at) and there isn't really that huge of a call for foreign parents except in the case of handicapped kids. Also, more and more orphans have living relatives or are trafficked children, and they are much more difficult/impossible to adopt internationally. The vast majority of the kids in my facility fall into that category.

Mainstream view? They are objects of pity and everyone wants to "help", though whether that help is visiting and saying "oh how cute", throwing money at them, or actually doing something worthwhile varies wildly. Usually it is just the first one, there is a steady stream of celebrities willing to come in say "aw, they are so pathetic" and then walk right out again.

purplemilkywayy1 karma

Are you referring to "ke lian"? That's more like "your situation is sad/pitiful and I'm sympathetic"

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Sort of. In general, it is rude to refer to the kids as ke lian -- it doesn't imply sympathy as much as pity.

purplemilkywayy1 karma

I'm a native Chinese speaker, and from my grasp of the concept... it's only rude if you maybe say it in front of them. Everyone says it when they look at pictures of unfortunate animals or children, people in areas hit by natural disasters, people who lost loved ones, or even your sad fried who had to work late. It's not a derogatory term. When we use ke lian, it's mostly sympathy and less pity.

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Ah, obviously I'm not going to correct you coming from that perspective, but it raises the hackles of everyone here at the orphanage when it is said in front of staff people or children alike. It may be a weird central China cultural thing, or just something my specific facility seems to dislike, with some long history attached to it. Thank you!

c09patrickallen5 karma

What is the ratio of girls to boys?

OrphanageYuangong14 karma

Approximately equivalent, the abandoning of girls is kind of still a thing in some very rural areas but is mostly just a thing Westerners still talk about.

c09patrickallen1 karma

Cool thanks. Do you think the disparity in male to female births is because of aborted female fetuses then? Regardless, some economists have found evidence that larger ratios of males results in more violent crimes. Thanks for everything you do for the orphans!

OrphanageYuangong5 karma

There is definitely a discrepancy that links back to the implementation of the one-child policy, but that doesn't really impact the orphan population, especially as trafficked children are mostly male. As the policy has gotten looser and looser, multiple children are more common and as such in the next generation it is pretty likely that the growing gap in genders will begin to get closer to equilibrium. Maybe. I am an orphanage staffer, not a sociologist. LOL.

prettypinkdork5 karma

Do you have trouble with bullying within the orphanage?

Have you witnessed the kids forming family-like bounds with one another?

OrphanageYuangong10 karma

There is lots of bullying, just like there is in any place with lots of children. Kids are kids no matter what country.

There are lots of different kinds of bonds formed. Some kids form a "me against the world" viewpoint that alienates most around them, but a lot of the children who are very close refer to one another as siblings, and staff members that have been around for a while are often called "mom" or "dad". About half the children in my care refer to me as "dad", which I don't push but allow them to decide upon, this is the approach taken by pretty much everyone except a few very gung-ho women who demand they be called "mom"..ha.

PaulJuarezCalc3 karma

Thank you for all that you do - you are a real hero. Is there anything that a lazy fat American like me can do to help the cause?

OrphanageYuangong7 karma


Just kidding, instead you could just go throw money at a worthy cause or two. Check out Half the Sky, the Philip Hayden Foundation, or Living Hope International. Those are three of the ones with a better reputation/your money is more likely to help kids than get spent on a $50 haircut.

edit: fwiw, i am not affiliated with any of those, i work directly for the government, so someone else might have a differing opinion/closer-to-the-ground knowledge)

I_am_pyxidis3 karma

You mentioned that many of your kids have living relatives or were trafficked children. Does this make them ineligible for adoption? How exactly do formerly trafficked kids end up in the system?

OrphanageYuangong5 karma

To the best of my understanding -- trafficked children are recovered by the police and then a certain amount of effort (usually minimal) is put into finding their parents. These kids are usually infants/toddlers and cannot, obviously, say where they are from. After the search fails, they are transferred to an orphanage where they cannot be adopted but are rather...orphans for good, just in case their parent resurfaces.

I_am_pyxidis3 karma

That's kind of a sad thought. Is there any effort in China to find a better system for this? Like if the parents don't come forward in a few years the kids can be adopted?

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

There is not much of an effort, except cracking down on the trafficking 'before it happens'. In my area, less children are recovered from trafficking rings these days but the same amount of rings are busted, meaning they are less successful/have less time to obtain children before they are found out, which is a good thing. As to the 'recovered' children -- once in a rare while something works out when a Chinese person really wants to adopt a specific kid, but this is rare.

NormalLies3 karma

Thanks for doing this IAMA!

What do you think people in the west would be most surprised to know about your orphanage?

What are some of the common reasons kids end up there?

What percentage would you say get adopted (and by whom)?

OrphanageYuangong4 karma

No problem!

Westerners would probably be surprised at how many boys there are. Also at how relatively nicely well-kept the orphans are via government support, when it is properly channelled. And how much care there is for the kids from within China. And how impossible it is for them to re-integrate into society. And any number of other things.

Kids end up here when they are either abandoned, trafficked, or their parents have been killed. Ten years ago things were really different, but these days it is about 10% abandoned, 50% trafficked, 40% parents gone.

Where I am, the majority get adopted, with most of them ending up with permanent Chinese foster families (about fifteen in the last three or so years). Handicapped children are often adopted internationally, very very few (five in eight years) healthy children get adopted internationally.

purplemudkip2 karma

Can you elaborate on why it's so difficult for them to reintegrate into society?

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Hm, this really deserves a full essay in response, but I'll do my best to cover it without being too wordy.

Basically, society doesn't place much of a value on orphaned children. They do not have any family connections to pull the strings for them, and they very, very rarely can make it far at all in their educational career, which is another "valued" factor. Once they are grown, they can certainly move into one of the lower-tier jobs, factory work specifically, without much of an issue. But as their legal status is often very tricky, depending on their hukou, how they came to the orphanage, the city they want to work in, etc., if a factory manager knows they are an orphan they are severe risk of being exploited. Beyond this, there is no upward mobility for them, as their lack of education places them in one position for essentially their entire lives. While this isn't all that different from migrant workers, it is exacerbated by the fact that people look down on orphans (to be fair, as many do, this isn't a "Chinese thing"), and do not perceive them as equals no matter how similar they may be. This means friendships are rare, even for adults (who do their best to hide their orphan status, which is nigh-impossible), and thus marriage/family life is essentially impossible. I've seen several kids reach their mid-twenties, teens when I first started assisting here, and none of them have ever come close to having a meaningful relationship, which is sad as China places huge value on finding a spouse, starting a family, etc. Many people refer to the "leftover women" of China, well orphans are sort of the "leftover leftovers".

And then psychologically, many orphans believe they are worthless. They would rather do absolutely anything then make the move from the orphanage -- so many of them try to become staff in the orphanage, just so they don't have to leave. They are scared of and intimidated by "society", as they see themselves as a drain. This sounds like a massive overstatement, but I've heard that sentiment expressed many, many times. With an attitude like that from them, met with the attitudes of many outside, integration into post-orphanage life is very, very difficult and requires some very special people willing to help them along the way.

That touches everything at a verrrrrry high level, I hope it makes sense?

reallyfasteddie3 karma

I live in China now. I have visited a local orphanage. I have also offered free English lessons. I will be here for many years so I hope I can make a difference. Anything else you think I can do for these kids?

OrphanageYuangong9 karma

Take it very slow and don't enforce your opinion about jack. Nothing worse than an opinionated foreigner marching in, everyone has stories about how much they hate those people. It takes the right connections and focusing on the fact that the STAFF work really fucking hard -- sure, the kids are sad, but the staff need approval and attention to. Build relationships over a looooooong period of time, like a year or more, and then eventually you will get there. But it takes a ton of time, effort, and conversation.

reallyfasteddie3 karma

This orphanage may be different. Not sure of what it is but I do not think it is a state run one. I am not working there. just want to give English lessons to students who want it. Only two do. I respect the lady running it and have raised some donations, not cash just clothing and toys that are not used, from my students. will go there to play with the kids too. Just starting with them.

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Oh, got it, yeah things would be different at one that is privately run. Getting in with the government is harder, but privately owned is still really tough. Be careful about toys and clothes and gifts outside of cash -- it is easy for people to have rules about new clothes/etc that are hard to figure out, I made that mistake for mannnyyy months.

reallyfasteddie3 karma

What kind of rules? The lady said do not buy new clothes or toys. we spent some time with the kids and got a wish list from them. one kid asked for kfc. The rest were shoes, etc. we managed to get all of them filled.

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Where I work, the children are never to be given food by non-employees. Clothing is purchased on a fixed schedule, and it really rubs the director the wrong way when people "gift" clothes after being told not to. Wish lists are nice, but often leave the staff (or older children, which is specific to where I am) feeling disillusioned a lot of the time.

Sorry, not trying to rain on your parade! Just my personal experiences. And if one thing can be said about China, it is that it is NEVER the same from one place to another.

reallyfasteddie2 karma

hey, I feel better rying to help the kids, but I really want to do it with their best interest. I asked the managing lady first what they needed. She was nice an said they liked to be just thought of, like someone cared. I live in a small town. They had never seen a weiguoren before. One asked how I go to earth? Cute. What do you mean disillusioned? There was one girl there who was "slow" and just had a baby. Asked why they would allow that. She said so she would have someone to take care of her when she gets old. I just do not know what to think. All I want to do is make their situation better. Tell me what you think honestly and how I can best help. I am geussing that my efforts stand a good chance of failing.

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Disillusioned in that "oh I am no longer cute, guess no one gives a shit about me" sort of way. That's more the older kids. For staff, it is "wow, I work my ass off here and these people don't even recognize me for it". It sounds selfish, but I can see where people are coming from. I get treated like a king every now and then still, as the foreigner, but the majority of people now treat me like any old staff member. Which is nice.

Your efforts stand a good chance of failing. As do mine. As do everyone's. All you can do is try your best. You need to take a step back and examine what motivates you and what your goals are, and find a way to truly make a difference in the manner that you are able. Being a visitor and being nice? Yes, that'll have a nice impact. Running in and throwing gifts at them every day? That'll make them hate everyone but you, which is something I had to deal with constantly when I first started.

But if your heart is coming from the right place, you can't fail, not really. Just be respectful. It isn't your home, your culture, your anything, really. I recognize that about my situation too (though it has become my home, sort of). I don't want to say "check yourself" since I am not an emo tumblr teenager but...well, you get what I'm saying.

KKitty3 karma

Is a couple in China allowed to adopt a child even though they already have a biological child of their own?

Not trying to be a smartass here... just trying to understand ALL the ins and outs of the One Child Policy.

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Yes, they can, this happens frequently though the majority of adoptions are from childless couples. The one-child policy is confusing and complicated, but basically keep in mind that it only impacts about 40% of the population currently, and is expected to be phased out entirely during the current administration.

KKitty1 karma

How does it only impact 40% of the population? I thought it was a country-wide thing.

I'm so confused 8-)

OrphanageYuangong4 karma

If both parents are from one-child families, they can have two children. If you are a non-Han people group member, you can have any number of children. If you live in certain rural areas, you can have two children. If you live in other certain rural areas and your first child is a girl, you can have another child. If you have the money to pay the fine (everyone does) you can have two children. Check this biz for more detail: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2013/03/for-many-one-child-policy-is-already-irrelevant/

PresidentRaggy3 karma

I wrote a story about a few families who adopted their kids once--one family had two little girls from China. The one didn't remember the orphanage, but the other one came from a very crowded place where the girls wore rags and didn't have much in the way of amenities. The dad said that he was shocked when he went over there--and that the little girl was abandoned, and found wrapped in a carpet when she was young. That all just gave me a bad idea of the whole system. Not sure what province she was from--I don't remember. But I am glad people like you are there to help these kids!!

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

The system is vastly, vastly improved these days as compared to the way it once was. Even in the last five years, massive leaps in level of care. I expect equivalent if not more massive leaps in the next five years.

inquisitivecats3 karma

What is a typical day like for you?

OrphanageYuangong7 karma

Oh boy this is probably my favorite question so far.


7:00 Exercise, still awful

7:30 Bustle kids off to school, pray it isn't my day to walk with them

8:00 Home projects, meetings with any number of superiors

11:15 Kids come back from school, lunch, get a jump on homework

12:30 Nap, my favorite time of the day.

1:30 Kids back to school, I do whatever, usually more home improvement projects, get on internet if it is working, watch some TV, and very very rarely go into the neighborhood and talk with my friends (the lovely old women always lining the streets)

4:00 Kids back home again. Prep dinner, play with them, get them to whatever after-school activity they have (music, art, therapy, etc)

6:00 Dinner time.

7:00 Homework out the ass. Clean whatever part of the compound my kids are assigned to that day. Do intensive tutoring with whichever kid is signed up for that night.

9:00 All kids in bed, hopefully. Maybe squeeze in an episode of TV or a game of Uno.

9:30 All kids for real in bed. Clean bathroom (it is a disaster ALL THE TIME, EVERY NIGHT).

10:00 Shower, write/read, go to sleep eventually.

Weekends are different and pretty horrible.

inquisitivecats2 karma

Wow, that sounds busy! What are the weekends like? Also, do you get to go on any vacations or holidays?

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

Weekends are the worst. The kids are there all day which means not one second off for me. I mean, it is okay, it is the life I signed up for so I can't complain too loudly, lol.

I get a vacation every now and then. In the last year I've had about two weeks off, in total.

edifythis3 karma

How does the adoption process work? Is there anything the orphanage does to promote adoption?

OrphanageYuangong4 karma

Eligible children are on a list. When (foreign) adoptive parents apply, a child is picked off the list after the parents jump through dozens of pretty bogus hoops. Handicapped children are on another list, and can pretty much be 'selected' and adopted within months. This is not possible for non-handicapped children.

My orphanage does nothing to promote adoption, at least internationally. Orphanages that do almost always are involved in trafficking/kidnapping schemes. One of the most famous orphanages for international adoption in China, in Jiangxi, is currently embroiled in a massive scandal related to the purchasing of children and embezzling of said funds. Devastating, especially as many of those children are in their teens living in none-the-wiser adoptive families in the US.

shawmanic3 karma

Yikes! My adopted 15 year old is from Jiangxi. Where can I learn more (in English) about this scandal?

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

As I answered to another person, it really has yet to be covered in international news at all. I'm doing some looking for coverage in English but can't find any -- the officials are covering it up as best they can (or maybe the whole thing is a smear job, don't discount that possibility) and thus the coverage is pretty minimal. There was a staff member working as a "whistleblower", but now that person as well as their journalist contact have both been fired (or so the orphanage rumor mill is saying).

mostlyfoolish1 karma

Do you happen to know which orphanage in Jiangxi? A friend of mine has two daughters from Fuzhou SWI, in southern Jiangxi. Thanks.

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

Fuzhou SWI, I believe. It is kind of hard to get information out, as it is right now only being covered in Chinese news and being covered up just as quickly by the officials there. It is a basic "kids for cash" scandal and does not look good at all for kids adopted internationally from there. I wish I could share more, I am basing most of this off an internal document that circulated, a now-disappeared series of news articles, and the basic rumor mill. Do NOT take my word as the final say.

martlet12 karma


OrphanageYuangong3 karma

They like stupid card games and 'thinking games'. They'd love to spend all day every day playing video games, but we are (I am) pretty strict about that.

SammaATL2 karma

Thanks for doing this.
My niece is adopted from China, and was recently part of a govt sponsored return to the homeland trip. Do you know anything about those? Side question, after the trip her parents were contacted by someone who said they were representing the birth parents. She was adopted from a very small village in a small province, so it seems possible. Have you ever seen a birth family reunite w/ an orphan or adopted child?

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

I've heard of those trips. They are nice, usually, but sometimes uncover ugly truths. I'd be wary of anyone representing birth parents, as they are often trying to get money. Cases of adopted children finding their birth parents are rare enough to be reported in the national news when it happens -- so this is probably not the case. Be very very careful, especially as you may accidentally tread into an adoption trafficking scheme, which are horribly common in some areas (depends entirely on her province, tell me she isn't from Jiangsu).

SammaATL1 karma

No, from Yingtan

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

Okay, phew. Looks like gseurat covered it up there too. Very sad, regardless, as it'll definitely leave her and her parents wondering. :(

swtnsourchkn2 karma

If one wants to help, is it better to donate time or money? Also, just want to say thank you. It really takes a special person to do what you do.

OrphanageYuangong7 karma

Money, unless you are willing to dedicate many years. The children do NOT need another person in/out within a couple years. It really fucks with their emotions.

anriana1 karma

ni shi mei guo ren ma?

OrphanageYuangong3 karma


wobble_1 karma

To what extent are your kids exposed to music? I'm a Chinese American student studying music education. I always thought it would be cool to teach kids in China.

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

A decent amount, they have classes in piano, drums, guitar, and a couple traditional Chinese instruments (hulusi, erhu). But you should come help contribute! The majority of teachers are retired music educators from public schools/private tutoring facilities, so they aren't always the most enthused, though they are very nice and giving to do it at all (why am I writing this as if they are reading, lol)

evoneli1 karma

Have you ever considered (or are even allowed?) to adopt one yourself?

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

I have considered, before I was a staff member. But now that I am, I've seen a few people who 'favored' one kid to the detriment of others and wouldn't want to put myself in that situation. I am certain I'd end up treating my son/daughter differently from my non-official sons/daughters, and as such would rather avoid the problem entirely. When I do leave, which I will likely one day do, I plan on adopting, but not in the specific "ooh I want that one" sense, but rather to help at least one more kid.

seahawk3371 karma


OrphanageYuangong2 karma

No, sorry to say, must be a different facility.

[deleted]1 karma

I live in China.

I have heard (from locals, not foreigners) that many of the prostitutes here are picked out of orphanages. I'm not confusing that with trafficking, I was told the orphanages was a source.

On top of that, I have heard many working girls talk about 'foster mother this' and 'foster mother that'. (And to be clear I'm not confusing that with Mommy or Mamasan')

What's the inside scoop on this?

OrphanageYuangong5 karma

Yes. Many girls struggle in school, due to a lack of social support both back home and from their educators, and are scoped by pimps. This does not happen at my orphanage, but that is mostly because we do not have many teenage girls currently on site. But when presented with two paths -- make a 'glamorous' amount of money or continue to go to school -- many, many fifteen/sixteen-year-olds will choose the former. This is a HUGE problem in some areas, and is obviously a form of child trafficking even if they are above the technical age of consent. Very sad, but orphanage directors in my area are being more proactive about preventing it from happening...but still, just one finger in the dam.

JuicyPoot1 karma

Are all orphanages in China run by the state or are there privately run orphanages?

OrphanageYuangong4 karma

There are both. The majority are government run but there are a solid amount of others.

reallyfasteddie1 karma

How much do you get paid?

OrphanageYuangong4 karma

I earn around Y1750 per month, which is average, and have no living expenses. It is not enough money to do anything, basically. But it is enough.

orangecruelty1 karma

Thats like 300 bucks US. Nice to see there are people with a good heart. So rare.

OrphanageYuangong3 karma

Though it is enough to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle, as purchasing power is very different over here, especially when not on the east coast, where all the 'real money' is.

BZ-B1 karma

What got you into working at the orphanage? Are you a foreigner or Chinese?

OrphanageYuangong2 karma

See an answer from a couple hours ago down below. I am a foreigner, came here through a long, winding road, started out as a tutor and ended up as a staff member.

palinsretardedbaby-13 karma

Do you ever sabotage an adoption to get even against a bad child?

OrphanageYuangong5 karma

Woah. No, no, no.