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Sichuan to Get Network of Institutions for Quake Orphans

Child welfare institutions will be set up in each quake-hit city or prefecture in Sichuan Province to shelter those orphaned by the disaster, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA).

The size of the institutions has yet to be decided, as the total number of orphans isn't definitely known yet, Zhang Shifeng, a vice director in charge of social welfare with the MCA, told reporters Friday morning.

"As of May 20, about 4,700 children were counted as being left alone in Sichuan Province's quake zone, but this is not the final number," Zhang said. In some cases, parents or relatives had yet to be located.

"My estimate is that the final number of quake orphans in Sichuan will be 1,000 to 2,000," Zhang said.

Wang Zhengyao, director in charge of disaster relief with the MCA, said more details about the welfare institutions could be available on Friday afternoon, as relevant departments must submit work plans by then.

Relatives will get priority in awarding custody and local authorities would give financial aid to such relatives if necessary, Zhang said, citing an MCA guideline published on June 3.

For those orphans left totally alone, adoption, foster homes, orphanages and social welfare institutions would be other options.

Those who lost children in the quake would get priority in adoptions, but children aged above 10 must consent to being adopted, Zhang said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2008)

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