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Ministry boosts orphan care by private agencies

(China Daily)

08:20, January 11, 2013

Supervision will be strengthened and building standards improved

The Ministry of Civil Affairs vowed to strengthen supervision and support for individuals and private institutions that look after orphans and abandoned children.

The pledge follows a fatal orphanage blaze in Lankao, Henan province, that claimed seven lives, including six children.

The ministry stressed that individuals and private organizations can run centers only if they are jointly managed by local civil affairs departments, a report on the ministry's website said on Thursday.

The ministry also plans to announce building specifications for orphanages and care centers.

For private institutions, civil affairs departments should provide basic subsidies to cover care costs. They should also encourage donations, it added.

There are 615,000 orphaned and abandoned children in China, but less than 18 percent reside in institutions.

The ministry has launched an inspection safety drive, dispatching three working teams to six provinces on Tuesday.

Wu Fuxiang, who heads the child welfare division of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' department of social welfare, said on Thursday that his team in Shanxi province has been working around the clock to check private care centers.

The ministry approved 900,000 yuan ($144,500) to Lankao's civil affairs authorities for the construction of a child care home in December, according to Dong Hui, deputy head of the Henan Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau's social welfare department.

Dong said inspection of unregistered foster families and private care centers for children started on Jan 5.

"We are asking private orphanages to remove potential safety risks in their buildings, to make sure all qualified organizations are under government management and supervision and persuade those who are not qualified to send children to care homes," Dong said.

She admitted that there are not enough public welfare institutions, as only about 20 out of 158 counties have care homes.

There are about 50,000 orphans and abandoned children in Henan but only 5,600 live in institutions, she said.

Lankao county will open its first public home for children in August, and it may mean a role for Yuan Lihai, the owner of the unlicensed orphanage gutted by the blaze.

"Construction on the new orphanage will be completed in June, and it will open in August. It will cover an area of some 1,700 square meters," Bian Heping, deputy director of Lankao Civil Affairs Bureau, said. He declined to give further details when approached by China Daily.

Yuan could work at the new institution, Bian was quoted as saying in a report by Caixin Media.

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