Author Archive

Anna J. High

Anna J. High is Visiting Assistant Professor at Marquette University Law School. Previously, she studied Law and obtained a Dphil. in Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford.

In January of this year, The Huffington Post reported on a fire that killed six children and one young adult “at an illegally run orphanage in central China”: “The deaths Friday in Henan province’s Lankao county have spotlighted China’s lack of government-run child services. They are often left to private citizens with few resources and no legal authority. The Lankao government earlier acknowledged that it had turned a blind eye to the illegal orphanage, which cared for abandoned children and young adults. …The deputy county governor said earlier that some departments had failed in supervision and should shoulder responsibility.” Unregulated orphanages are exceedingly common in China. Official government estimates put the number of “orphans” (the term is used loosely to include children who have been abandoned, and in fact have one or both parents still living – the Chinese term for orphan, gu’er (孤儿) – literally “solitary/lonely child” accommodates this) in China at over half a million as of 2011.[1] The state orphanage system designed to care for these children is characterized by a rural/urban dichotomy. Orphanages are located in urban centers; orphans and abandoned children in rural areas (who account for around 85% of the total orphan population) do not have access to these state-run institutions.[2] A variety of welfare programs exist in rural areas to support the indigent, including children without parental care, and many orphans and “foundlings” are taken in by relatives or neighbors[3]; but despite this, there is a conspicuous gap in the state’s orphan welfare program when it comes to rural China. This gap is filled, as the above article alludes to, by “private citizens with few resources and no legal authority”.