2001 CHN: Children in Institutions and Other Forms of Alternative Care in China
Author: Shang X.; Liu Z.; Cheng J.; Beijing Normal University
In China, there are 46,808 orphaned or abandoned children, most of whom are disabled and under state care. The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) is responsible for making policies for alternative care for them. Currently, adoption is the most desirable form of alternative care in China. Apart from adoption, institutional care, foster care and residential group care are also important forms of care for orphaned or abandoned children. In the past, institutional care was regarded as the first choice of care for children. This concept about institutional care is changing. Policy makers and practitioners are increasingly aware that it is good for the children to be cared for in a family or family-like environment and that institutional care should not be the first choice but the last resort.
Purpose / Objective
The main objectives of this investigation included:
Obtain knowledge on the development of children in welfare institutions
Explore the reasons of child abandonment
Make a first-step analysis on the general status of fostering schemes in China
Make a primary analysis on the situation of children fostered in families
Obtain baseline data in the project sites for the future evaluation of the program
The study was conducted in eight state welfare institutions. The investigation on the general conditions of welfare institutions was carried out by inspections in the field. Some data from institutional archives, routine reports and financial reports were included in the investigation after they have been checked for their reliability. Data also came from three sampling surveys: the survey of caregivers in welfare institutions, of orphaned or abandoned children and of foster parents. Ten percent of the caregivers, custodial children and related foster parents were randomly selected for the survey in each welfare institution.
Key Findings and Conclusions
In the surveyed welfare institutions, the two main factors contributing to child abandonment were the discrimination against girl child and the discrimination against children with disabilities. The survey showed that the sex ratio of orphaned or abandoned children is very unbalanced (male:female = 80:100), which indicates that female children are more likely to be abandoned. However, it has also been found that this phenomenon has declined in recent years. Secondly, most abandoned children are disabled. The age of abandoned babies is closely related to the severity of their disabilities. The more severe their disabilities, the younger the abandoned babies would be.
The two main factors exerting pressure on the work of state welfare institutions are the number of orphans and abandoned children, and their very young age. Nurses are over-burdened by looking after more children than they believe they can look after properly. The age of most caregivers in state welfare institutions is relatively high. Although it is advantageous since older staff have more experience in caring for children, the training the older staff received in the past is not enough to meet the needs of children with disabilities in terms of development and rehabilitation.
Foster care has certain advantages in terms of both improving the quality of care and releasing the heavy pressure on the work of state welfare institutions. Currently, most foster parents care for children properly. Orphans and abandoned children in foster families are benefiting from their efforts. There are significant differences between children in institutions and in foster care, in terms of their emotional and social development. The life satisfaction of fostered children is significantly higher than that of children in institutions. Furthermore, most foster parents expect fostered children to stay with them for a long period, and they feel responsible for the future of these children. In practice, fostering arrangements in all the surveyed institutions are very stable, especially if compared with the situation in the USA or other western countries.
However, there are still problems in the existing foster care projects. Parents need more training on how to deal with the special needs of orphaned or abandoned children, and children with disabilities. The access of children with disabilities to education and medical care is also problematic. Foster parents hope to get more support from the government and state welfare institutions.
This investigation did not obtain enough information on adoption. Our survey results suggest that only a smaller part of foster families are considering adopting the children with disability in their care. It is difficult for the children with disabilities, even those only slightly disabled, to be adopted. Therefore, enhancing the adoption opportunities of children with disabilities is an important and urgent issue, which needs more research.
It is an important and urgent task to adopt the anti-child-abandonment legislation and to conduct anti-child-abandonment activities.
Institutional care is still an important form of alternative care. All abandoned children, no matter where they would be finally living, must be cared for in institutions for some time. Also, some children are not suitable for foster care at all. At the moment, state welfare institutions are not properly staffed. It is important that state welfare institutions are strengthened in terms of financial investment, personnel arrangements and technical improvement.
Furthermore, foster care was unevenly developed in the past. The government needs to take further action to promote this form of alternative care, and to finance it properly. It is essential to standardize and systemize the development of foster care in terms of guaranteeing the quality of care. A training program is highly recommended.
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