Foster care ordered for 'flown alone' boy
Antoine So and Chris Wong
An 11-year-old boy abandoned by his mother in the US and put alone on a flight to Hong Kong will be placed in a foster home.
A court ruled the boy should be committed to the care of his father over the next 12 months under Social Welfare Department supervision, but this would mean a period in a foster home while it was determined whether they could rebuild their relationship.
The boy's mother took him at a young age to live with her in Chicago shortly after she divorced his father.
However, on April 18, she put him on a flight via Toronto to Hong Kong and told airline staff her estranged husband would pick him up. The father, a workman with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, failed to arrive, leaving the boy in the hands of airport police and then social workers. The father was finally contacted the next day.
In a closed-door ruling, Magistrate Bernadette Woo of Tsuen Wan Juvenile Court imposed a care and protection order under the Protection of Children and Juvenile Ordinance. The ruling was made with the consent of father and son, after two months of lobbying by social welfare officials.
A government source said: 'Both need to see if they can live with each other and rebuild the relationship. Before that can take place, a foster family will be in the boy's best interest.' It would take one or two weeks to arrange a foster family.
The department has yet to discuss with the pair whether they would be willing to live together before a foster family can be arranged.
The source said it would take a long time for father and son to repair their relationship, noting that government social workers might apply for a longer period of supervision if necessary.
In the next 12 months, the father would meet his son regularly, with the frequency determined by both sides' wishes, the source said.
One difficulty will be language, as the boy was used to speaking English, which the father speaks little.
Adjunct professor of psychiatry at Chinese University, Wong Chung-kwong, warned that teenagers without proper parental love could develop serious emotional or behavioural problems if not properly handled.
'Parental love is the foundation of everything for children. Their self-esteem and trust all come from proper parental love,' Dr Wong said.