Child Welfare

China has 322 million children, representing one in six children worldwide. Over one million children in China are orphaned or abandoned without any form of parental care, often as a result of the death of a parent or parental Incarceration, illness or disability. About 110,000 of these children are in the care of the state, 80 per cent of whom live in institutions and orphanages rather than with an alternative family.

Child neglect is also a significant concern in China, with an estimated 61 million children living separately from their parents. As parents move to cities to find work, they are often forced to leave their children behind resulting in a high prevalence of neglect and abuse.

Research conducted in 2013 has estimated that over 9 per cent of girls and 8 per cent of boys in China- around 30 million children in total­ have experienced sexual abuse. One per cent of children have experienced penetrative sexual abuse, affecting approximately 3 million children; a major problem with no explicit policy solution.

These child welfare and protection problems have been brought to world attention in recent months, with mass media reports attracting heated debate about the need to protect children against the risk of physical and sexual abuse, address the living conditions in informal orphanages and prevent the high rates of child death in fires, traffic and other accidents due to neglect.

In order to protect and support vulnerable children, China needs to develop and implement an effective child protection system. The development of such a system will need to be underpinned by a robust and comprehensive program of research which is relevant to the situation in China, and is informed by lessons from child protection systems around the globe.

It is essential that the development of a child protection system in China is informed by relevant, evidence-based research in order to be effective. As a result, this project will be implemented in four main phases: research, policy development, implementation, and advocacy and public awareness.

The SPRC has a strong track record in conducting social policy research in China and is uniquely positioned to contribute to a project of this scale. For over 10 years, SPRC researchers have worked collaboratively with the Chinese government, local authorities and communities, researchers, not-for-profits, civil society and other key organisations to conduct research to inform the development of effective evidence-based social policy. This research has had a direct influence on almost all major reforms to China's child protection policy over the past decade, including the introduction of a national orphans allowance and foster care guidelines. It is estimated that over 750,000 children have directly benefited from these policy changes to date, with millions more children benefiting indirectly.

More information about our work in child welfare (PDF)


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UNSW child protection research partnership informs policy reform in China