Addressing Child Welfare Challenges in Rural China: An Assessment of the Child Welfare Director System and Possible Lessons from Japan




Zhang, Rongxin

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China’s rapid urbanization and mass migration over the past several decades has resulted in approximately 69 million children being left-behind in the countryside. Many of these children suffer from problems linked to a lack of parental care and emotional support, including physical and psychological abuse, neglect, truancy, and even malnutrition. In 2010, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs and UNICEF piloted a “child welfare director (CWD)” model in Chinese 120 hinterland villages aimed at empowering community members to fill the gaps in child welfare provision and to improve the well-being of disadvantaged children in rural areas. Since 2019 the Chinese government has strived to implement the CWD system across the country. Informed by a theoretical framework that encompasses the concepts of child development, family support, and child welfare models in China and Japan, this study investigates the implementation and further development of the CWD system. A comparative analysis of the Japanese commissioned welfare volunteer and chief child welfare volunteer system is also utilized to explore possible lessons for the Chinese circumstances. The research findings highlight the crucial coordination function of the CWD system in incorporating families, schools, government bureaus, and various social sectors into a synergetic network to connect fragmented child welfare resources and services to support disadvantaged children and families. Analysis of the Japanese approach sheds light on the further development of the CWD system in terms of consolidating the partnership between CWDs and schools, promoting the cooperation between CWDs and social welfare institutions, as well as strengthening the professionalism of CWDs. This research also examines the involvement of civil society in child welfare provision in contemporary China. For program planners and policymakers, this thesis emphasizes the central role of governments at various levels, along with the important though limited contributions of non-government sectors, in providing more financial, human, and training resources to support the implementation of the CWD system to enhance child welfare provision in rural China. A key recommendation arising from this research is to establish a new specially designated government department with responsibility for all relevant child welfare issues. The thesis also speaks to the wider issue of promoting rural revitalization and rural-urban integration to address the specific challenges of left-behind children in the Chinese countryside.



Community-level child welfare system, Left-behind children, Urbanization, Rural China