The story I read today about an adolescent girl with psychiatric problems being pushed out of China before the Olympics reminded me of details people need to consider before moving to another country to live with their children.
The girl, who is from Ohio, was living in Beijing with her parents. Her mother was a teacher at one of the international schools. After moving to China, the girl began to get into trouble due to some psychological issues. Prior to the Olympics, the Chinese officials put pressure on the family to get the girl out of China.
According to the article in today’s Columbus Dispatch, the Chinese government wanted it to be smooth sailing when the guests arrived so people who were problematic, such as, political dissidents and protesters were removed from the city’s scenery. The girl happens to fit the profile of undesirables.
Now that the girl and her mother are back in Ohio, they are having a hard time getting services to help the girl because they are technically not residents of Ohio anymore. They have overseas residential status, sort of. The health insurance they had in China doesn’t cover them in the U.S.
In the meantime, the father is still working in China in order to make enough money to return back to the U.S. Depending on the contract he has, he may not have the cost of a flight back covered in his contract if he has to leave early. This is conjecture on my part, but plausible.
Remember Michael Fey, another teenage Ohioan who had issues while he was living in Singapore with his mother and step-dad? He was also sent back to the U.S., but not before being arrested, jailed and caned for punishment.
Although living the expat lifestyle overseas can be a wonderful experience, for people who have children with special needs, it can turn into a disaster. The support services are generally not there when it comes to special education and mental health issues. At least they are not typically as available as they are in the United States, and people can be left stranded to try to deal with problems on their own with little to no help.
Schools the students attend can be supportive up to a point, but they are in a position where they need to maintain a good relationship with the country in which they are located. If the boat springs a leak, so to speak, the person causing the leak my be dumped overboard. It’s not personal. It’s business.
If you’re contemplating moving overseas with your family, know what services are available in a country before you ever sign a contract and get on that airplane. This is particularly important if you have a special needs child. The stress of adjusting to this new life can cause issues not anticipated as this Ohio family found out.