Zhao Donghua, Vice President and Member of the Secretariat of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), attends the second session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), which opened in Beijing on March 5, 2014. [Women of China/Fan Wenjun]
According to statistics released by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) in 2012, there are an estimated more than 61 million 'left-behind' children in China, accounting for about 20 percent of all children across the country.
The number of preschool left-behind children increased by 7.57 million (47 percent) since 2005, while the number of school-age and older left-behind children is declining.
Left-behind children mainly live in Sichuan, Henan, Anhui, Hunan, Chongqing and other labor-exporting provinces in central and western China. Nearly a third of them are cared for by their grandparents.
At present, left-behind children develop well overall, but a part of them have problems with their care, safety and mental health.
The Chinese government and the Communist Party of China (CPC) have attached importance to the sound development of rural left-behind children, and the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, held in November 2013, also urged the improvement of the national care system for their benefit.
In recent years, the ACWF has made great efforts to provide care for left-behind children. For example, various women's federations have established children's homes to provide life care, homework guidance and mental comfort.
In central China's Hubei Province, the Hubei Women's Federation and the Hubei Development and Reform Commission have worked together to implement a pilot program providing comprehensive services to left-behind family members of migrant workers.
East China's Anhui Province has included the building of activity centers for left-behind children into its people's livelihood project and invested more than 26 million yuan (US$ 4.24 million) to establish activity centers in the province's 1,308 townships.
Northwest China's Gansu Province has allocated more than 20 million yuan (US$ 3.26 million) to build children's homes in every township across the province.
"These children's homes and activity centers have enriched their cultural lives, playing an important role in the care for left-behind children," said Zhao, who also serves as Vice President and Member of the Secretariat of the ACWF.
According to Zhao, the ACWF has teamed up with the Ministry of Education and other relevant departments to carry out care projects in 40 target counties of 12 provinces to explore an effective care model connecting schools, families and communities.
Zhao stressed that current rural public services can't meet the practical needs of left-behind children. The existing care centers don't have sufficient funds, full-time workers or a long-term mechanism.
Accordingly, Zhao put forward three suggestions on improving the care for left-behind children as follows:
Firstly, civil affairs departments should include the care of left-behind children in their overall rural development plans and urge local governments to build children's activity areas in rural public service facilities to provide convenient public services to children and their families.
Secondly, education departments should increase their efforts in building rural boarding schools, strengthen their supervision, and equip psychological and life teachers to provide care and support in accordance with their special needs.
Finally, the National Development and Reform Commission should implement relevant care programs to build children's homes equipped with necessary books, cultural and sports facilities to provide trusteeship, aid services and family education guidance so as to promote children's healthy development and remove migrant workers' worries.
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