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Want ad for father arouses concern over single parents' children
Updated: 2004-04-07 14:36

A classified ad from a six-year-old boy looking for a father in central China's province of Hunan has moved many people to tears, and aroused widespread concern over the country's rising number of single-parent families.

"I want a dad to join my family, to help my mom look after her store and to take me to parks on weekends," said the boy, who names himself Xiao Xin, in a letter to a local newspaper.

Xiao Xin attached a photo to the letter, which was drafted by his aunt Wang Liping, his mother's youngest sister.

Wang said the boy had never even met his biological father, an addicted gambler who had left behind heavy debts before divorcing Xiao Xin's mother. The sisters are running a small garment store together to repay the debts and support the family.

"My sister is kind, tolerant and hardworking. And she's only 32," said Wang, who said it was not for financial reasons that she wanted her sister to remarry. "I love my sister and nephew. They deserve a happier life."

In a telephone interview with Xinhua, Xiao Xin added specifically he wanted a father who does not gamble, has a job and treats his mother and himself well.

Xiao Xin's family is by no means the only one to openly search for parent in the recent two years, as figures released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs indicate that nearly 1.2 million couples divorced in 2002, an average 3,225 couples a day.

Zhou Yonggui, 47, did the same, hoping to find a father for her son, who, as an 18-year-old, had become too timid and too dependent on his single mother.

In an extreme case, a single mother in the southwestern Yunan Province merely wanted to find a loving man who could act as a father by giving her three-year-old daughter a weekly phone call.

The mother herself is not sure whether she can justify herself with this fairy-tale type of lying when her daughter grows up and finds out about the truth, but "to know she has a father somewherein the world who can talk to her over the phone and will come home'someday' is enough to console her for the moment," she said without giving her name.

Most single parents would hesitate whether to tell their children the truth about the family misfortunes.

"I really don't know what to say whenever my son asks where or who his father is," said one.

"I hate to hear other people say my daughter is fatherless, and I'm in constant fear that other children might tease her for that," said the other.

Behind all this bitterness, many single parents say they worry about their children's healthy development more than anything else-- and experts say their worry is not uncalled for.

Figures released by All-China Women's Federation show 78 percent of China's juvenile delinquents are from single-parent families and 66 percent live with step-parents.

Sixteen-years-old Xiao Jin has been in a reformatory school in the northern Shanxi Province for two years, but his mother and stepfather rarely visit him. The boy killed a classmate when he was still a first-grader at junior high school, and has got a moderate punishment for his young age, said Zhang Mei, a school official.

Before he killed the classmate, Xiao Jin said he had cut his own fingers and written a letter with his own blood to declare his formal split-up with his family.

"I'm trapped in a mire with no love," Xiao Jin told Xinhua. "My parents divorced when I was seven and my father died shortly after that. My mother remarried in the following year and my life was always overshadowed with beatings and curses at home and at school."

Compared with his past life, Xiao Jin said he was even happier at the reformatory. "I'm not afraid at all even to be sent to jailor sentenced to death," he said, "At least it's a good reason to leave my family."

But Xiao Jin's teachers at the reformatory all said he was a sensible and easy-going boy. "His parents could have seen the other side of him, too, if they had shown him love and care and guided him properly," said Huo Youcheng, head of the reformatory.

Huo said nearly a half of the young offenders at the reformatory were from single-parent families.

According to an official with a juvenile courtroom in the nation's capital Beijing, 57 percent of all the young offenders have lost one or both parents.

In 2002, Liu Haiyang, a student of the prestigious Qinghua University based in Beijing, burnt several bears in a zoo with vitriol fluid just "for fun." Liu grew up in a broken family, withonly his mother and maternal grandmother.

In the same year, two teenagers from single parent families, one 13 and the other 14, were sentenced to life in prison for setting fire to a cyber cafe in Beijing. Twenty-five people were killed in the blaze.

Of all the 35 members in a juvenile delinquents gang seized by police last year in the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, 30 arefrom broken families.

Meanwhile, many primary and middle school teachers complain children from single-parent families are often introverted, unconfident, sensitive and complaining. They say improper ways of parenting, such as use of physical punishment or overindulgence, are to blame for some children's deformed personality.

But experts say a broken family does not necessarily lead to misfortunes and crimes. "Single parents can create a loving and caring home environment for their children as well, and these children can grow up to be even more successful," said Zhou Lu, a sociologist with the Tianjin Municipal Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhou said it was unfair and discriminating to associate single-parent families with "problem children". He cited the example of Liu Yiting, a girl whose parents divorced when she was still a toddler.

Liu was brought up by her mother and stepfather, who joined thefamily when she was seven. Her family education has been so successful that she received acceptance notices from four US universities and was admitted to Harvard University after she graduated from a local high school in the northern Shanxi Province.

"Harvard Girl Liu Yiting", a book written by her parents on howan effective family education would benefit a child, is regarded as a bible by those who want their children to have the same future.

"Children from broken families should learn to be strong and independent," said Zhou. "Their divorced parents, on the other hand, should forget their former enmity and work together in bringing up the child."

He said both parents should spend time with the child, and to reassure him or her with their love.

Zhou also called on the whole society to lend a helping hand tosingle-parent families and create a loving social environment for the children's healthy development.

The women's federation in the southern metropolis Guangzhou, for example, is helping 3,709 single mothers in the city look for a new husband. The federation has also involved male volunteers ineducating children from broken families.

Beijing and Tianjin have both set up single parents' clubs to offer psychological counseling and parenting courses to single parents -- including the divorced and widowed.

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