Taipei (AsiaNews) - The decision by the government of Taiwan to integrate the Child Welfare Bureau (CWB), currently under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), into the newly established Ministry of Health and Welfare in late July has sparked protests by social workers who are afraid to see their efforts of the last decade jeopardised.
Betty Ho (何素秋), chief executive at the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (家扶 基金会, TFCF), is leading the fight. She expressed her frustration at the government's move during the ceremony organised by the MOI to mark the closure of the CWB. The new ministry will take over all social welfare activities.
"Unfortunately, this change will place the CWB lower in the hierarchy after 13 years of major efforts. Resources will be shifted and this does not bode well for children who need the utmost care."
Established 13 years ago, the CWB over the years introduced many services to take care of the country's children.
Under the new ministry, the budget for the child welfare body will be much lower than the average among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (经济 合作 暨 发展 组织, OECD) countries.
"I don't see the government giving any priority to child welfare," said Ho who asked Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鸿源)-who was present at the event-to convey the concerns of child rights groups' to lawmakers.
"Children and young people are the future of this country," Ho added. "If we do not take care of them, they will pay all the consequences."
Responding to the request, the minister said he "would personally supervise" the restructuring of the bureau but noted that many had doubts about priorities. "This is why it is important for both government officials and social workers caring for children ensure that all available resources are used properly," he explained, "and that the most disadvantaged do not pay for governmental negligence. Every effort will be made to improve coordination during the transition."
CWB Director Chang Hsiu-yuan (张秀 鸳) agrees. She said she understands the concerns voiced by child welfare groups, like Ho's TFCF, calling on them to continue their monitoring of the government's work. For her part, Ho said that her group would "not betray our charism and mission."
In 1937, a foreign clergyman, Dr J. Calvitt Clarke (卡维特. 克拉克 博士), set up a Children Fund in northern China to help children caught in the Sino-Japanese War.
In August 1950, a branch was opened in Taiwan with its first family-style orphanage for children whose parents had been victims of accidents.
Since then, many volunteers and social workers have worked with the organisation, all moved by a strong desire to help and share, like that of the current president, the feisty Betty Ho.