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Shelter to help abandoned children

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

09:36, July 15, 2013

China's first temporary shelter for children in plight will be built in Shanghai to protect those whose parents fail to fulfill their obligations.

"We will first accept kids abandoned or abused when their parents are being criminally prosecuted and will have a specialized welfare home for them in probably two years," said Xu Jun, director of the civil affairs bureau's social department in Changning district.

The shelter will be opened in a new social assistance center, which will be put into use in April, Xu said.

The idea for the shelter came from the court because judges often encountered cases in which minors were abandoned when parents were involved in civil lawsuits.

"Sometimes both parties in a divorce dispute claimed they didn't want the child and turned away, leaving the child at the court, in which case the judge would bring the child home," said Qian Xiaofeng, a judge at the juvenile court of Changning District People's Court.

But that is not a long-term solution, he said, and they want to make use of government resources to shoulder the rights of custody because "a country is the highest guardian of children", Qian said.

In the temporary shelter, volunteers will take care of the children and help with their schoolwork. Psychological counseling will be provided.

The plan of the shelter was also hastened by recent cases of child abuse, Qian said.

Two toddlers, aged 1 and 3, were found starved to death on June 21 after being left home alone in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. Their father was put behind bars in February on charges of providing shelter for drug addicts, and the mother has a history of drug abuse.

Qian said the shelter will accept children in such environments in the future.

"Children whose parents are drug addicts, alcoholics and serving jail terms or those under nobody's care will be sent to the shelter," he said.

Zhu Miao, an official with the juvenile section of the Shanghai High People's Court, said she hopes the shelter will promote the establishment of a feasible and complete custody system for children in the municipality, which will take the lead in the country.

She said her office is writing a proposal to the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress about the child welfare regulation.

"For children who live with irresponsible parents, the regulation should designate other guardians for foster care or government and social organizations to provide care," she said.

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