New guideline apportions responsibility for left-behind children

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-2-15 9:11:33

The State Council, China's Cabinet, has released a guideline on the protection of left-behind children -- those under the age of 16 and whose parents work away from home -- delineating the various responsibilities of parents, government and society at large.

The guideline, signed by Premier Li Keqiang, states that local governments and village committees should keep themselves well-informed of left-behind children within their jurisdiction and ensure they are properly cared for, while the parents' primary responsibilities are stressed.

Aside from helping left-behind children talk with their parents by video-chat or phone, government at township level must set up a file for each child. Village officials and Party members must visit the children on a regular basis.

Migrant workers who can take their children with them should do so, or one parent should stay home. Parents who cannot meet this requirement must appoint a responsible guardian.

While away from home, parents must keep in touch with their children regularly and see them often, keeping track of their lives, studies and mental health.

Village committees and police should talk to those who do not fulfill their parental duties. Serious violators may be held accountable.

Education authorities and schools have an obligation to help the children study and live safely.

Governments can contract charities and voluntary bodies to provide professional services, and a system of compulsory reporting, intervention, assessment and help will be established. These organizations must report cases that involve injury, abuse or other harm to the appropriate authority and intervene as soon as possible.

The guideline comes as China reforms household registration, with some 100 million people expected to permanently relocate to towns and cities. Migrant workers leave their children at home in the countryside principally because they cannot become permanent urban residents under the current system, and their children may be denied education and health care.

The guideline lays out measures to gradually decrease the number of left-behind children, by helping migrant workers find affordable housing and allowing their children to go to city schools.

Tong Lihua, director of a Beijing child-advocacy group, said that the guideline's strong measures may prevent many of those tragedies which come to light only after children are hurt.

More than 60 million children are considered left-behind, and lack of proper arrangements for many has led to a number of heartbreaking situations, such as the suicide last year of four children in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

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