Civil Affairs Ministry releases documents on improving welfare system for left-behind children

On May 27, the Ministry of Civil Affairs held the second press conference of 2019, and in cooperation with ten other government departments, released a document entitled “Suggestions on Further Improving the Welfare System for Left-behind Children and Children Facing Difficulties in Rural Areas”. This is not the first time the Party Central Committee and the State Council have stressed the importance of improving children’s welfare. In 2016, the State Council released two similar documents offering suggestions.

The director of the Department of Child Welfare spoke at the press conference and explained the four main points of the document. First, the document clarifies the function and direction of development for minor rescue and protection agencies and children’s welfare agencies. There are two types of agencies working in the child welfare field. The first are traditional orphanages, which are mainly responsible for custody of children in the long term. The second are minor rescue and protection centers, which provide more temporary help to children in need. These centers should be responsible for taking on temporary custody responsibilities and organizing care services for left-behind children and children facing difficulties.

The document also puts forward suggestions to reform minor rescue and protection agencies, and expand child welfare agencies’ social services functions. Local child welfare agencies that lack resources and cannot provide quality services should send their children to city level agencies that are better equipped to provide for them. County level agencies that have already sent their children to better facilities should transition into becoming children welfare guidance centers or minor rescue and protection agencies.

Second, the document further clarifies the general requirements for building grassroots children’s work teams. The training principles for the work teams are “stratified, diversified, operable, and full coverage” and the document emphasizes that clear performance tracking mechanisms should be put in place.

Third, it clarifies that many different actors should participate in child welfare services. Civil affairs agencies and minor rescue and protection agencies should actively support social services agencies, public charity organizations and volunteer organizations. In addition, the government will continue to procure services (购买服务). All localities are required to include the care and protection of rural left-behind children in the government procurement service guidance catalogue. Finally, all sectors of society should be encouraged to participate. The document calls for social workers, legal professionals, and psychologists as well as other professionals to provide services to left-behind children and children facing difficulties. Enterprises should also be actively encouraged to fulfil their social responsibilities.

Fourth, the document clarifies work guarantee measures. Agencies should work closely with relevant government agencies to build welfare services for left-behind children and children facing difficulties. They should also work to secure their funds and the lottery public welfare should gradually increase the percentage of its funds given to social services for left-behind children and children facing difficulties. The document also clarifies the respective responsibilities for the ten departments that jointly released the document.

In addition, the document put forward specific requirements for strengthening the social service system for left-behind children and children facing difficulties. For example, the document calls on agencies to improve services in the so-called “three areas and three prefectures” of Western China, to improve training for childcare professionals in rural areas, to encourage social organization’s development in the child welfare field, and to continue to tilt funds towards rural areas.

During the press conference, one official commented that there are currently 1806 minor rescue and protection agencies established in the country. These agencies should also be responsible for working with the judicial department to prosecute child trafficking, domestic violence against children, and other illegal behaviours that harm minors.