China to enhance child-welfare program

Updated: 2013-06-01 01:20

By He Dan and Cao Yin (China Daily)

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China plans to expand a pilot program that has so far dedicated child-welfare officers to 120 villages across the country, in an effort to help children in plight, a senior official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs revealed on Friday.

Xu Jianzhong, the deputy head of the ministry's department of social welfare and charity promotion, said the central government will roll out the practice nationwide when the pilot program ends in 2015.

"Village welfare officers help the government to understand children's needs and make sure children enjoy basic social welfare and protection services," he told China Daily after the launch of Child Welfare Week in Beijing, to mark International Children's Day, which falls on Saturday.

The ministry launched the six-year pilot, along with the United Nations Children's Fund and the China Philanthropy Research Institute, in 2010.

Li Maiyun has worked as the child welfare officer for Zhuangshang village in Henan province since August 2010.

During one home visit in March this year, Li said she discovered a girl who had been seriously burned, but that her single mother - who was mentally ill - could not afford the hospital medical fees.

After she reported the case to the pilot program's coordination office in Luoning county, the office managed to find funding of 3,000 yuan ($480) from a charity organization.

Li used the money to send the girl to hospital, and then supervised her for 20 days until she recovered.

Li said she does regular home visits to check on every child in the village, keeping records on their nutrition, education, health and whether they have been abused.

She then reports the information to relevant governmental departments and helps to access what resources might be available to deal with any problems.

For instance, over the past three years, Li said she has helped more than 30 children in her village to get a hukou, or permanent residency permit - a prerequisite for them to enjoy medical insurance.

So far, the 120 child-welfare officers have been working in five provinces, including Sichuan, Yunnan and Henan, monitoring the needs of about 80,000 children, and helping them enjoy better social welfare and protection services, according to the pilot project's annual report released on Friday.

The report details various positive changes as a result of the program, including a significant fall in the school dropout rate of children, to 1.8 percent in 2012 from 5.3 percent in 2010.

"In the past three years, we have witnessed great strides in efforts to elevate child welfare in the national development agenda," said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF's China representative.

"China has moved forward toward the development of inclusive approaches that address complex vulnerability issues among children."

In 2012, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance allocated up to 3.6 billion yuan for the provision of allowances and goods to vulnerable children.

In addition, the ministries allocated another 200 million yuan to support the delivery of social services by civil society organizations for the most vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS.

But according to the China Child Welfare Policy Report, also released on Friday by UNICEF and the China Philanthropy Research Institute, China still faces numerous challenges in improving child welfare.

The report said that the number of vulnerable children, including orphans, in China continues to increase.

Figures provided by the Ministry of Civil Affairs show that 628,000 orphans were registered in the country in 2012, a sharp rise from 2011, the report said.

It added that there were 3.07 million children under 6 years old without access to education in the country, with more than 60 percent of them in rural areas.

More girls are missing school than boys, it added, and 2.8 million children are not receiving the compulsory education they are entitled to.