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Caring for Orphaned Children in China

Shang Xiaoyuan and Karen R. Fisher

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International media regularly features horrific stories about Chinese orphanages, especially when debating international adoption and human rights. Much of the popular information is dated and ill-informed about the experiences of most orphans in China today, Chinese government policy, and improvements evident in parts of China. Informal kinship care is the most common support for the orphaned children. The state supports orphans and abandoned children whose parents and relatives cannot be found or contacted.
The book explores concrete examples about the changing experiences and future directions of Chinese child welfare policy. It is about the support to disadvantaged children, including abandoned children in the care of the state, most of whom have disabilities; HIV affected children; and orphans in kinship care. It identifies how many orphans are in China, how they are supported, the extent to which their rights are met, and what efforts are made to improve their rights and welfare provision.
When our research about Chinese orphans started in 2001, these children were almost entirely voiceless. Since then, the Chinese government has committed to improving child welfare. We argue that a mixed welfare system, in which state provision supplements family and community care, is an effective direction to improve support for orphaned children. Government needs to take responsibility to guarantee orphans’ rights as children, and support family networks to provide care so that children can grow up in their own communities.
The book contributes to academic and policy understanding of the steps that have been taken and are still required to achieve the goal of a child welfare system in China that meets the rights of orphans to live and thrive with other children in a family.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 286Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7391-3694-2 • Hardback • December 2013 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-4985-5692-7 • Paperback • February 2017 • $46.99 • (£31.95)
978-0-7391-3696-6 • eBook • December 2013 • $46.99 • (£31.95)
Shang Xiaoyuan is associate professor at the Social Policy Research Centre, the University of New South Wales, Sydney. In 2003, she was awarded the Alice Tay Human Rights Award by the Australia-China Council for her significant contribution to improving the understanding of child rights in China.

Karen R. Fisher
is associate professor at the Social Policy Research Centre, University of New
South Wales, Sydney. Dr. Fisher specializes in disability policy and Chinese social policy research.
Part I: Alternative care and the Chinese welfare state
Part II: Case studies of alternative care in China
Chapter 15: Supporting children affected by HIV
Part III: Future directions for alternative care in China
Chapter 16: Implications for alternative care of orphans in China
Appendix: Fieldwork details
Orphaned children are one of the voiceless, often invisible, disadvantaged social communities that has resulted from three decades of rapid social change in China. Xiaoyuan Shang and Karen Fisher have done a great service to our understanding of Chinese society, as well as to the cause of orphaned children, through their examination of this social issue, current responses, and possible policy alternatives. Eventual prosperity may mitigate most problems, but in the meantime, there is a need for a more proactive agenda from government as well as society.
David S. G. Goodman, University of Sydney and Nanjing University


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