Parachute Kids

Parachute kids are Asian-born international students who have come to the United States to study unaccompanied by their parents. Usually, they will stay with a family member, like an aunt or grandparent. But sometimes, the parents hire someone to act as their guardian.

Children of rich Asian families sent to live in U.S. suburbs known for good schools and safe streets. Typically, mothers try to split their time between their husbands in Asia and their children in America, often leaving housekeepers in their stead. Parents may feel guilty about spending too little time with their kids and shower them with money and gifts, says May To, executive director of the Asian Youth Center, which has dealt with parachute kids.

This is quite common in Taiwan. I’ve known quite a few parachute kids that were getting some intensive ESL tutoring in order to be able to speak well in the US or Canada. Typically, a lot of Taiwanese pursue graduate degrees in the US as well, after completing their undergraduate degree in Taiwan. Parents will save for years to make this possible.

While this can be seen as a great opportunity, it can also be trouble for the children that won’t be supervised as assiduously as by their own parents. In some cases, the kids will live alone in apartments paid for by their parents without any supervision. It can also leave them vulnerable to kidnapping, much more than if they were living with their parents.