The Invisible Children of Taiwan

Childhood is supposed to be one of the best times in a person’s life. Sadly, not for institutionalized orphans in Taiwan with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects physical functioning and mobility. Children with severe cerebral palsy cannot do Activities of Daily Living (ADL) such as eating by themselves, bathing, or using the bathroom. It takes so much time and effort to take care of them. Their reliance on caregivers results in many of them being unable to eat well. They are lying on their back most of the time, which further aggravates their physical functioning and mobility. Sadly, many of the children with some form of cerebral palsy are survivors of physical abuse at their own parents’ hands. The story of Yu-Chen and Xiao-Mei shows how orphanages in Taiwan have, in one way or the other, neglected or rejected the invisible children in Taiwan. Some orphanages fear that taking care of them cost too much and require too many human resources. Some fear that children with severe disabilities might die while in their orphanage. These are all very valid concerns. Consequently, institutionalized children with cerebral palsy are like warehoused storage items in nursing homes.

Nursing homes are known for specializing in geriatric care. On the other hand, the normal development of children’s psychomotor, emotional, and psychosocial functioning takes place in a stimulating environment where play and constant social interaction are necessary. It is already demanding to take care of an average child. More so, children with cerebral palsy have special needs that require even more attention.

For some reason, Yu-Chen (four years old) and Xiao-Mei (seven years old) lived in a nursing home because no orphanage wanted them. In particular, Xiao-Mei, who lived in a nursing home for several years, is the perfect example of neglect, evidencing the difficulty in taking care of someone with her neurological condition. While in the nursing home, Xiao-Mei developed bed sores due to long hours of lying down. Her legs are undeveloped, proof that either no physical/occupational therapy interventions were implemented or current efforts were not enough. Worse, her teeth were full of cavities and were growing mold all over. She did not have any appetite to eat. It was just a matter of time before Xiao-Mei would develop a life-threatening infection that could further degrade her health. What exactly happens to young children with cerebral palsy who are hidden away from the sight of Taiwanese society and kept in nursing homes? With the neglect or inappropriate care they experience, how long do they live before they die? Should these children live unnoticed in misery and suffering? They must be shouting out for love and attention, yet can anyone truly hear them? They are trapped in their body. They are trapped in a nursing home. They are the invisible children of Taiwan.

Yet, Yu-Chen and Xiao-Mei’s story is not entirely tragic. Instead, it is a story of hope. Those familiar with Yu-Chen’s story are witnesses to the potential and strong will of an invisible child who wants to be seen as a symbol of hope. Furthermore, people who know Xiao-Mei stand amazed at the undeniable changes in her personality, skin color, and appetite. The power of God’s love and hope gives new life to the weak, oppressed, and marginalized. Yu-Chen and Xiao-Mei are the light to the lost and the invisible children that need to be found.