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Building China’s child welfare system

Maggie Cheung1
© UNICEF/China/2011/Jerry Liu
Maggie Cheung, UNICEF Ambassador in China, meets children at a Child Welfare Activity Centre in Jinyang County, Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province.

Government, United Nations, academia, civil society, celebrities, media and children join together to launch 2nd National Children’s Welfare Week

Beijing, 30 May 2011 – China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Beijing Normal University today jointly launched the 2nd National Child Welfare Week, 30 May – 4 June. The key theme of the launch ceremony was the important progress that has been made over the last year in piloting a comprehensive child welfare system for China. The "Child Welfare Demonstration Project," launched during 2010 Child Welfare Week, has begun to demonstrate the benefits of a child welfare system model in 120 villages throughout Sichuan, Henan, Xinjiang, Yunnan and Shanxi provinces.

On hand at the launch event held at the UNICEF Beijing Office compound were high level government officials, UN representatives, key academics and researchers, civil society organizations and a group of children from one of the communities represented in the Child Welfare Demonstration Project. The children, who came from Henan Province, shared their hopes and dreams for improved support and care for a better future.

Maggie Cheung, UNICEF Ambassador in China, gave a moving account of her recent trip to the Liangshan Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan. On this trip she learned of the daily struggles of children in special remote rural areas who are beginning to receive appropriate support and care under the new model.

Maggie Cheung2
© UNICEF/China/2011/Jerry Liu
Maggie Cheung, UNICEF Ambassador in China, talks to a Yi ethnic minority widower who has to take care of her four young children alone. Her husband was killed in a traffic accident and left the family struggling to survive.

"I was happy to see that orphans have been registered and are receiving their full state benefits. I also noticed that some other children, although not orphans, have no one to care for them, so we have to find ways to give them help," said Maggie Cheung. "Support is close at hand but they really need someone to help lead them to it."

The event was hosted by the children from project sites in Henan Province. They used visual artwork and stories to convey their needs, hopes, happiness and dreams, and to represent how their community has been supported during the first year of the Child Welfare Demonstration Project.  On behalf of all vulnerable children, they voiced their points of view in front of all the guests and media gathered in UNICEF China Compound.
In the final portion of the event, Mr. Yao Xianhui, Inspector of the Department of Social Welfare and Charity Promotion, Ministry of Civil Affairs, officially opened 2011 Child Welfare Week. Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative for China, gave a presentation on the benefits of child welfare system approaches to extremely vulnerable children. Mr. Wang Zhenyao, professor of Beijing Normal University, reported on the latest developments in establishing the child welfare system, and the way forward in policy and practice.

Under the new scheme child welfare directors and child welfare centres are being established in local communities to help monitor the situation of the most vulnerable children. Some children do not have birth registration. Some, though not orphans, are left without caregivers and others are living with HIV-positive parents. The new approach is exploring ways to work with village child welfare directors to collect disaggregated data of children with different kinds of vulnerability, in order to provide assistance according to their special needs.

In 2010 the central government allocated RMB 2.5 billion to provide orphans with special subsidies and living allowances.  The MCA and UNICEF Child Welfare Demonstration Project is expected to help develop a community based system for administering the new orphan subsidy and for ensuring that care for orphans and other vulnerable children will focus on family, kinship and community based care and support.

"We are impressed to see the strides that China's Ministry of Civil Affairs has made in laying a foundation for a truly comprehensive child welfare system," said Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF China Representative. "This is the best way to protect the rights of those children who are affected by a range of complex problems such as loss of their parents, disability and disease."

In addition to the 30 May launch event this year’s National Child Welfare Week will feature a rich and diverse range of activities and information exchanges to highlight the opportunities and challenges remaining to scale up a national Child Welfare System for China.

• May 30th – The website “Children Welfare Net” developed by Beijing Normal University will be launched.

• May 31st – Beijing Normal University will release 2011 Report on China Children's Welfare Policy at Jingshi Building. Attendants will have in-depth discussions about the report and share their recommendations regarding China’s child welfare system.

• June 1st – Children’s Day - UNICEF China Ambassador Maggie Cheung will conduct a live chat on the UNICEF Weibo site of between 4 and 5pm.

• June 1st – Children’s Day - will broadcast on-line interviews and discussions with experts from all the fields on Medical Assistance for Major Child Illnesses and hot Issues related to children's welfare.

• June 4th – Beijing Normal University will launch a new book entitled “Emerging Issues and Findings on Child Welfare and Protection in China”.

The annual China Child Welfare Week aims to call attention and commitment of all sectors and stakeholders, including the national legislature, government departments, institutions, enterprises, scholars and experts to promote the cooperation of the whole society on building a child welfare system that corresponds to China's economic development, to benefit all children and build a better future.



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