COPYRIGHT 1984 U.S. Government Printing Office
Eight years ago I had my first encounter with American child abuse laws. The experience was an eye-opener for me.
I had worked for the American government in children's affairs, here and in Vietnamn, for almost 20 years. When I came to the
United States as a refugee in 1975, one of my responsibilities with the government's refugee program was to explain American
ways to the Vietnamese, and vice-versa.
One day I received a telephone call from an American social worker in a hospital. She said that a Vietnamese boy had just been
admitted with a bad cold and what appeared to be a very severe welt on his neck. His mother admitted to inflicting the welt.
Right away, I recognized the problem.
In Vietnam, and in some other Asian countries as well, mothers believe that physical sickness can be cured by rubbing a coin
repeatedly against the skin of the affected part of the body. The rubbing makes the skin red, and this supposedly permits the
sickness to escape through the welt. The mother believed that by reddening the neck, she was giving the sore throat a chance to
Her action was not prompted by anger but by the same motivation that prompts an American mother to give her sick child an
Unfortunately, the practice was a clear violation of the local child abuse laws. It took a great deal of pateint explanation, all
around, so resolve the case satisfactorily.
This case clearly illustrates the sort of problems that child abuse agency personnel face when dealing with clients from another
One cannot generalize about all Asians, any more than one can group together all Europeans. Even among the several hundred
thousand Vietnamese who have entered the United States as refugees since 1975, we must recognize some differences.
Many of the Vietnamese now living in the United States were farmers or fishermen in their native country. Their family life was
far different from those who lived in the city. And our country's entire social structure was strained and distorted by the war that
began in 1945 and continued, bitterly, for 30 years. In addition, there have always been large pockets of indigenous, ethnic
Chinese living in Vietnam--our own minority problem--whose culture is somewhat different from that of the ethnic Vietnamese.
Child welfare issues involving Asian families are of particular interest right now for two reasons. First, we are in the midst of a
large-scale migration of Asians to the United States, including not only refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia but also
large numbers of Korean immigrants and growing numbers of people leaving the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong and the
Philippines. Together, they represent the largest group of immigrants now entering the United States.
Second, Asians believe in large families. Thus immigrant families are large, and children--lots of them--are very much a part of