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Haven for homeless children
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Thousands of lost children have been reunited with their families in the past four years thanks to a government campaign to help homeless youths.

Since August 1, 2003, the Relief and Protection Center for Homeless Children in Guangzhou has assisted 4,158 homeless children, a spokesperson for the Guangzhou bureau of civil affairs, in the southern province of Guangdong, said.

With the help of family and relatives, and the support of the center, 3,993 children have returned to their hometowns.

So far this year, the center has taken in 845 homeless minors, almost 32 percent more than the same period last year.

Last month, the bureau of civil affairs launched a citywide aid campaign for homeless children. So far "dozens" of youngsters have been sent to the center.

Most homeless children are known to roam public places such as railway and bus stations, temples and hospitals.

Civil affairs officials must not only help reunite homeless children with their families, but also combat criminal elements that force children to beg or break the law.

Official figures show that among the homeless children being cared for by the protection center, almost 88 percent are from other provinces, and 72 percent are boys.

As many as 59 percent of the children have committed crimes and 86 percent left home due to family problems, including the divorce of parents and abandonment.

Twelve children have stayed at center for at least two years, because their families cannot be located.

"Some children have left home for a long time, while others have mental illnesses. They cannot provide proper information about their families to us, making it very difficult to find their families," Lu Ai, the vice-director of the center, said.

(China Daily October 25, 2007)

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