US to China and Back Again

Updated: 2016-08-26 12:05

By Hong Xiao(China Daily USA)

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Lois Lee was featured in the film. She is the director of the Chinese-American Planning Council, a non-profit in the New York City borough of Queens, that provides child-care services and helps satellite babies adjust.

During her 45 years at the council, Lee has been working with immigrant families and helping thousands of children, including Tse and Lam (not their real names).

Working parents

Lee said most parents of satellite babies in New York work double-digit hours every day of the week and can't afford early child care, which averages $14,144 per year in the city.

"These young couples work long hours at jobs like restaurants, nail salons, grocery stores, dry cleaners and hotels, doing jobs that no one wants, and yet they can't get child care services for their families to keep the children here," she said.

Lee said a reunion can be difficult for both parents and child after the long-term separation they have experienced.

"They didn't see their child's first steps. They didn't hear them when they first learned how to talk. They lost five years bonding with their child," she said.

Even after they live together, the parents can't combine taking care of their child and working long hours for a better future for the family, Lee said.

"The parents still work till 9 o'clock; they even work in Connecticut, in New Jersey. They come home late, and the children have to eat dinner by themselves with prepared food," she said. "The children will wonder, 'Why did you bring me back here? You don't want to spend any time with me."'

She said the children feel guilty because their parents can't take care of them, and now they feel they are a burden to their family.

US to China and Back Again

Lois Lee (left), the director of the Chinese-American Planning Council, which helps children of Chinese-American immigrants adjust to life in America. David Chen's parents sent him to Fujian province to be raised by his grandparents when he was a baby. He returned to the US at age 5. Photos by Hong Xiao / China Daily, Provided to China Daily

Lee said she doesn't expect the parents to create a family atmosphere like American families do by eating dinner together or carrying out a full set of bed time routines, but at least, they should talk to their children and try to understand each other.

"They (children) need to know their parents love them and want to talk to them," Lee said.

For more than 50 years, CPC has been offering a free program for children from pre-K to fifth grade whose parents have a tight working schedule. She said 70 percent of the children now at CPC are Chinese Americans, and 70 percent of those children are satellite babies.

CPC is open from after school to 6 pm every school day and on holidays when public schools close. The staff helps children with homework, takes them to the beach, to a park, to movies - what parents normally would do but don't have time to do.

"We are like their substitute parents," Lee said.

To help solve problems in parent-child communications, CPC also has a class for parents to teach them how to communicate better with their children and how to discipline them.

Lee said the children show more understanding of their situation "because we talk to them".