In huge orphanages, with too many babies and too few staff, babies can get virtually no attention; left in a crib all day long, almost never talked to – or touched.
Now that's changing, thanks to one woman: Jenny Bowen, of Berkeley, California.
"What we give to the children is the gift of nurture, individual care," says Bowen.
What inspired her crusade was Maya.
Bowen adopted Maya from China six years ago; she was expressionless, dull-eyed, locked in solitude. Bowen worried that Maya might be mentally ill.
But after lots of caring and caresses, she realized she was wrong.
Bowen thought that what worked for Maya could work across China. She started raising money to train and pay special nannies in a program called Half the Sky to help all the little abandoned babies who may never have parents of their own.
"Once it started happening and the results were so successful, it swallowed up my life," Bowen says. "Once you start there's thousands of kids out there you can reach and whose lives you can really change."
In three years they've expanded to 13 orphanages – a drop in the bucket here, but 2,000 tiny lives changed so far.
Maybe it seems obvious that touching and holding a child is a good thing, but scientific researchers have discovered that touching a child actually helps release the hormones that help a baby both mentally and physically. As one researcher put it, it's as important to touch a child as it is to feed it.
The older kids are the obvious success stories, children who got the nanny touch as babies and now seem completely engaged and playful.
So maybe it's true, it is the simple things that count; as simple as a touch that can change a life forever.