A China Children Social Work Research Center was established on Tuesday by the Civil Affairs Ministry (MCA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"Establishment of the Center was of great significance in training professional social workers, developing native theories and practices, and improving China's capability of supporting children", said Li Liguo, vice minister of MCA.
He noted that China, amid drastic social transformation, was facing complicated situation in its child protection work. New vulnerable groups of children appeared, like the trafficked, the left-behind children of migrant workers, those from single-parent families and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
To tackle the problems, social support and community forces were required in addition to government efforts.
His view was shared by Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF representative to China.
"Social workers have a critical role to play in the promotion of children's rights, especially the right to be protected from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation," she said.
"Social workers can also play an important coordination role between the home, schools, hospitals, police, other support groups and the wider community in responding to these needs," she said. "They can also play a valuable role in community development, social research and policy development."
Lu Shizhen, a professor from the China Youth College for Political Sciences, said, "It is time that we move our social work welfare for children from remedial to universal."
She suggested gradually extending welfare coverage to all children, in both urban and rural areas.
Lu also stressed that China's social work for children protection at this stage should concentrate not only on children's basic material needs for survival, but also psychological issues as well.
China has more than 58 million left-behind children. Experts estimated each year the number of children trafficked was between 30,000 and 60,000. There is no immediate statistics of how many children were affected by HIV/AIDS, but the Ministry of Health estimated that 740,000 people were living with HIV in China at the end of 2009.