China / Society

Chinese counties lack child welfare agencies

(Xinhua) Updated: 2013-01-09 21:36

BEIJING - Government-funded child welfare agencies have been established in only a minority of China's county-level regions, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs has revealed.

Only 64 such agencies are available in counties across the country, the unidentified official told Xinhua on Wednesday.

The comments come with many orphans potentially facing transfers from privately operated orphanages to state-backed institutions. The ministry on Sunday announced a month-long nationwide inspection of orphanages run by individuals and private operators after a fatal fire at one such operation in central China's Henan Province.

If these orphanages do not meet the requirements of accommodating orphans, the children should be sent to child welfare agencies, a statement issued by the ministry said.

According to statistics provided by the ministry, China has some 615,000 orphans although the figure fluctuates each year.

Around 109,000 of these orphans live in government-funded agencies, with the rest being fostered by relatives or private orphanages.

Besides the 64 child welfare agencies in counties, there are 9 such agencies funded by provincial-level governments and 333 by prefectural-level governments in the country. More than 800 social welfare institutions also have departments for children.

The official said that family foster care had been promoted in recent years as a better option than orphans growing up in child welfare agencies.

They added that China's child welfare networks remain imperfect, and that regulations need to be revised to lower overly stringent requirements for adoption. The government's database holding national information on reported and transported orphans also needs to be improved, according to the source.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has urged its departments across the country to mobilize communities and villages to collect information on the conditions of non-government orphanages as part of the inspection campaign.

On January 4, a fire at an unregistered orphanage run by Yuan Lihai in her home in Henan's Lankao County killed seven people.

Yuan, 48, had taken care of orphans and abandoned children since 1986, using money earned working as a street vendor.

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