New database will help improve orphan care

08:41, March 28, 2011      

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A national database to collect and collate information on orphans under the age of 18 has been set up.

The database, the first of its kind, will help facilitate the distribution of monthly government subsidies and monitor welfare services caring for this vulnerable group.

It will record data on the country's estimated 712,000 orphans, including basic identification details, photos and their guardians' information, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption, (formerly the China Center of Adoption Affairs), will be in charge of the database, Zhang Shifeng, center director, said at the launch ceremony on Saturday.

All orphans, not just those in institutions, will benefit from the database. "Our work in child welfare was previously restricted to orphans raised in welfare institutions, but in the new era our work will be expanded to benefit all underage orphans," said Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs.

With the prime objective of building an inclusive welfare system for orphans, the civil affairs department will locally distribute a monthly allowance of 1,000 yuan ($153) for every child in an orphanage and 600 yuan for those who either live with relatives or are not in an orphanage.

The central government pledged to allocate 2.5 billion yuan as an initial fund to enhance orphans' standard of living in 2010, according to a regulation approved at a State Council executive meeting in October.

The database's most important functions include monitoring the distribution of living allowances given to orphans and guaranteeing fairness and accuracy in welfare, Dou said.

Shang Xiaoyuan, a professor at Beijing Normal University, said that the government should strictly check applicants' identities and encourage public supervision to avoid false claims.

How to put increased financial support to the best use is a dilemma for many orphanages, said Zhang Zhirong, executive director with Half the Sky Foundation, a non-governmental organization that focuses on helping orphans.

"A lot of orphanages told me that they simply added snacks or another meal to the children's diet as they are not allowed to spend the increased funds in other ways," Zhang told China Daily in a telephone interview on Sunday.

"However, many orphanages have a shortage of experienced and well-trained nursing staff to offer professional care to orphans and other children, especially those who were abandoned by their parents due to physical disabilities," she said.

Zhang urged the government to consider introducing more flexible policies for orphanages to spend money in the best interests of the children.

Source: Xinhua
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