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Sun, Nov 21, 1999 - Page 2 News List

Child welfare bureau launched

921 ORPHANS Children who lost their families in the earthquake will be the first to get assistance from the newly established Bureau of Child Welfare

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Interior Minister Huang Chu-wen (黃主文) formally launched the Bureau of Child Welfare yesterday in central Taiwan, saying the initial focus of its work would be to take care of the 135 children orphaned by the 921 earthquake.

The establishment of the bureau in Taichung City (台中市) was determined by the terms of the Child Welfare Law 1993, the sixth article of which stated a child welfare bureau would be set up within two years of its enactment.

After four year's of procrastination, the legal framework detailing the organization of the Bureau of Child Welfare finally passed in the last legislative session in June of this year.

"It is an advance in Taiwan's social welfare system," Huang said.

In order to set up a progressive welfare system, he said, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) would also push for a department of social welfare -- a central government-led department solely responsible for welfare implementation.

The chief of the new welfare organization is Liu Bang-fu (劉邦富), former director of the Taiwan provincial government's social bureau, who will be assisted by 34 staff.

Responding to the concerns of lawmakers, Huang Chu-wen assured then he would provide a plan for the care of children orphaned by the 921 earthquake.

According to statistics from the MOI, 135 children were orphaned as a result of the quake.

Problems surfaced when relatives of these children made competing claims for the custody of the children.

Many suspect that this was not unrelated to the government subsidy of NT$30,000 to NT$40,000 per month for the custodians of the orphans.

Huang said the MOI will make an effort to amend Article 1094 of the Civil Law to ensure the best custodians for the children are chosen.

A trust fund will also be set up to take care of the children until they reach adulthood.

DPP Legislator Lai Ching-lin (賴勁麟) said he expected the Bureau to take an active role in child welfare matters.

He recommended that the bureau first amend the existing child and juvenile welfare-related laws.

In terms of human rights and welfare principles, there is a gap between these laws and those set by the UN's Children's Rights Convention.

Some of the existing laws in Taiwan relating to children are still based on the perspective of adults, Lai said.

Secondly, Lai said, the bureau should open a national child welfare conference to integrate social resources for children and should consider increasing the budget for child welfare.

The budget for child welfare until the end of 2000 is approximately NT$1.3 billion. This means that for the 3.83 million children in Taiwan, each is entitled to only NT$339 of welfare spending in the coming year, Lai said.

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