Our Priorities

Every child needs the care of loving parents. As China's economic fortunes grow, it is working to ensure that no child goes without adult caregivers.

Until that goal is realized, however, many children in China remain without parental care. For many, often interconnected reasons, more than 700,000 children are orphans or have been abandoned, and each year about 100,000 street children receive help from the government.

Some orphans have lost their parents in environmental disasters or emergencies. A large number of abandoned children are disabled.

Street children may have left home because of poverty or family problems. Impoverished parents may also take their children onto the street to beg. Some street children have dropped out of school and are unable to find work. Others have been abducted, trafficked or become prey to adults who exploit them.

Ideally, children without parental care would be raised in family-like environments within familiar communities, but frequently these children find themselves in welfare institutions. The majority of children in such institutions are abandoned and disabled.

Protecting and caring for these vulnerable children requires better laws and guidelines, as well as family support, community-based services and adequately-trained social workers.

Protecting and supporting children without parental care

UNICEF partners with the Ministry of Civil Affairs and other agencies to strengthen the resources available to children without parental care. With our support, China is building a comprehensive child protection system .

One instance of this support is our contribution to a pilot project that provides vulnerable children, including street children, with community-based services like:

  • outreach, to identify vulnerable children and encourage them to seek assistance;
  • street desks, near train or bus stations, where street children can find food, hygiene and medical supplies;
  • drop-in centers, where street children can stay short term; and
  • community-based residential care, where children live in a family-like environment that supports transitioning back into society.

Additionally, we help foster the growth of the social work profession in China. Our inputs contributed to standards setting for social work for children, as well as to the draft Five-Year National Plan on the Development of Social Work for Children, which aims to increase the number of social workers qualified to work with vulnerable children.

We also collaborate on the development of laws and policies that safeguard vulnerable children, like the National Policy on Strengthening Social Protection for Orphans.

Making a difference

UNICEF's work to protect and care for vulnerable children has contributed to a recent national policy on cash assistance for orphans. This policy marks the first time China has allocated dedicated funds for supporting orphans to live in family care , this policy has been a milestone of child welfare system in China.

In addition, the service model developed in our street children pilot project has been successfully replicated elsewhere. The scope of the pilot has grown to include, not just street children, but all vulnerable children.

You can help protect and care for vulnerable children. Take action by noticing the street children and other vulnerable children in your daily life and learning more about the kinds of assistance they need.  Or find out how you can support UNICEF's work today. 

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