After splitting with their partners, single women with children usually have few options and have to turn somewhere in Shanghai for assistance.
The majority of them look to experts from the Legal Assistance Center, which is part of the Shanghai Women's Federation, for help.
A girl as young as 15 has been to the center with her baby, claiming that the child's father -- a school dropout like herself -- had kicked them out of the accommodation they shared.
Worryingly, the center is witnessing an increase in the number of destitute mothers and a decrease in their ages.
More than 40 cases were reported last year but the figure could be higher, according to Cai Lanzhen, director of the federation's Benefit Protection Division. Most of the cases involve a non-native Shanghai woman and a local man, who may have already been married.
Without obtaining a marriage certificate, the couples usually live together -- the father is unlikely to adopt the child after separation.
"The two parties are both responsible for the outcome but women usually suffer more from such a relationship," Cai said.
Although the federation strives to seek financial compensation from the father, the future of the child is always a biggest issue.
Cai said there were several cases of babies from such relationships being abandoned in public toilets or hospitals.
"The whole society, including schools and families, has to support the right concepts of sex and marriage to eradicate such issues," Cai said.
Zhang Liang, an expert from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said: "These cases are not prevalent but parents and schools have to be conscious of sex education."
(China Daily March 25, 2003)