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China Focus: New rules to encourage and regulate foster families

BEIJING, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- China's Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a new regulation on foster families on Friday, replacing an 11-year-old regulation.

The new document has clearer and more pragmatic rules on foster parents and will help more effectively place orphans and homeless children under the care of state-certified families, said Xu Jianzhong, a senior ministry official, at a press conference here.

According to the regulation, each foster family can take in two children at most, under the condition that the family does not have a child of its own aged below six.

The new rules raise the bar on the qualification of foster parents. They should receive at least nine years of formal education and their financial status should be at least average for the region. Those who have an academic background in childcare or education will be given preference.

For disabled children, foster families living in the communities with medical and special education facilities will be given preference.

According to Xu, currently about 30,000 children are living in foster families across the country. According to the latest figure from the ministry, the number of orphans registered by the government was about 600,000.

The number of children in foster families is still very small and there are problems such as abuse and negligence in foster families, Xu admitted.

"That's why we need an updated and better regulation to help push forward the work," he said.

Foster families are an important channel for orphans to return to families if the country has rigid restrictions for adoption, said Hou Xiaoxue, deputy head of a state orphanage in Zhengzhou city of central China's Henan Province.

However, the number of foster families remains small as most people are not fully aware of its significance and there is not enough promotion of the issue, Hou said.

Compared with orphanages, the foster family is a relatively new idea in China. The new regulation means the government considers it a good solution for taking care of orphans and more efforts may be made to promote it, Hou said.

Zhu Junmin, a resident in Pingdingshan city, Henan, has taken in eight children since 2012, with the youngest aged about two months old and most of them having disabilities.

"The most difficult moment is when a child is adopted and has to leave us," he said. "They have bonded with us. My wife and I have thought about adopting them but our financial conditions do not allow it."

The new document addresses this issue. It asks the authorities to inform the foster family as early as the adoption procedure starts so that they have enough time to arrange the farewell.

Psychological counselling is required for the children who have to change their foster family or return to institutions.

The document also says a foster family will be shortlisted to adopt the children staying with them.

It asks the government to carefully select foster parents, train them and supervise their work.

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