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Several organizations in Sichuan are preparing to offer care and shelter for children orphaned by last week's quake.

At least 10 children from Wolong and Yingxiu, near the epicenter of Wenchuan, are being housed in a newly-established shelter in Chengdu for orphans or those who lost contact with their parents, China Daily has learnt.

The shelter is off limits to journalists or concerned residents; and Wang Xiaomei, a teacher at the center, said the ban was to "protect the vulnerable children".

Wang said the center anticipates more children and has prepared at least 100 beds.

The Chengdu Children Welfare Institute, the largest of its kind in Sichuan, was yesterday also preparing to receive quake orphans or those who have lost touch with family.

"We're getting more beds and other necessities," Wei Jianhua, head of the institute, said.

Wei explained that many children are now in hospital or scattered in various camps. "They're being cared for by local women's federations and will come here soon after initial checks."

Another major orphans' home in Chengdu, the SOS Children's Village, expects to house at least 100 quake orphans.

A teacher who would only give her surname as Dai said the village would offer the children total care, including psychological counseling. "After such a huge tragedy, most of these children will have some kind of psychological problems, which take a long time to heal," she said.

In another development, a civil affairs official said yesterday that eligible people, including those overseas, can adopt quake orphans in conformity with the law, once order has been restored in the quake-hit regions.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs told its local bureaus to take care of the homeless children, help them recover from the trauma and to try to locate their relatives.

It also said adoption procedures would be activated only at the proper time.

"Only when the government is sure of their identities and that they have no relatives will they be put up for adoption," Li Bo, deputy chief of the ministry's social affairs department, said at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office.

Ye Lu, head of the social welfare division at the Sichuan provincial civil affairs department, said earlier that it was still too early to ascertain the number of quake orphans.

Children, the elderly or the disabled who have nobody to look after them will each receive 600 yuan ($85) a month, according to ministry regulations.

Online forums are full of postings by people hoping to care for the orphans.

Many listed their mobile phone numbers and gave details about their personal finances and careers to prove that they were worthy parents.

A 24-year-old from Hubei province who is married but is childless said the family is ready to take in either a boy or a girl.

"My family is heartbroken over this quake and we would like to adopt an orphan from the area," the person said.

A number of overseas organizations have also been inquiring about children orphaned by the earthquake, Xinhua News Agency reported earlier.

(China Daily May 21, 2008)

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