Social workers have been providing counseling to an unemployed single mother who may have violated the Children and Youth Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法) by letting her 10-year-old son hawk on the streets late at night to supplement the household income.
Shouldering a bag filled with packs of dried pineapple, dried mango and dried star fruit, the boy, surnamed Chen (陳), was found selling to pedestrians passing on Hankou Road in Greater Taichung at about 10pm on Monday night.
Concerned about the safety of the fourth-grader, a passerby called the Greater Taichung City Police Bureau’s 2nd Precinct.
When police arrived at the site, Chen handed them a flyer that read: “I am a child in a single--parent family. My mother was laid off and was injured in a car accident. Please help me.”
Police officers contacted Chen’s mother and requested she come to the scene to explain the situation.
Chen’s mother said she has raised Chen by herself, while her poor physical condition and unemployment had left her no choice but to ask her son to sell candied fruit on the streets to support the family.
She said she usually accompanied her son when he was out hawking.
Police told the mother not to let her son stay on the street so late at night, adding that doing so could be a violation of the Children and Youth Welfare Act.
The elementary school Chen attends said it was aware of the conditions the family faced since he was in first grade and had listed his family as a family in great need of assistance.
The school and the Ministry of Education provide Chen a full waiver on tuition, free lunches and winter and summer vacation lunches in an -effort to help the family, the school said.
However, the school said it listed Chen’s family as a “high-risk family” and reported his case to the city’s Bureau of Social Affairs last month after noticing more frequent absences by Chen and a message on Chen’s Facebook page saying he had started to help sell preserved fruit.
Since the bureau was notified, social workers have been providing counseling to Chen’s mother, with the school also urging the mother to push Chen to be punctual for class and to focus on his education.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, staff writer