A special fund set up to help disadvantaged children who become involved with the judicial system and need assistance has come to the aid of eight youngsters in its first few months of operation.
The Shanghai Higher People's Court and Children's Foundation of Shanghai established the fund to provide a safety net for young people who are victims of crime or who are involved in legal actions.
Among the fund's first beneficiaries were a 1-year-old boy who was scalded when a landlord poured boiling water over him, and a 5-year-old boy left paralyzed by a road accident that occurred when he was jaywalking with his grandfather.
Shanghai's court system provides legal aid to those who are involved in criminal or civil cases but can't afford a lawyer, but that assistance is limited in duration and narrow in scope. Where the system was failing was in responding to the needs of children entangled in the judicial system.
"Before this fund was initiated, it was often our judges who supported these kids by themselves," said Zhu Miao, an official with the juvenile arm of the high court. "Our judges shouldn't have to bear that sort of burden alone."
The new fund is one of the first attempts to combine judicial and social resources to help children who are poor, diseased or abandoned.
In some cases, these children require long-term medical care that their families cannot afford.
The court can use the fund to help children if: their family income is below Shanghai's poverty level; they have a serious disease; they have broken the law and need skills training; their guardians have gone missing or been jailed; they are seriously injured as a result of crime; or they are owed compensation by perpetrators of a crime.
"Each case has a story behind it," Zhu said. "We heard too many instances of needs being unmet and decided we needed to strengthen assistance for minors who fall under the judicial system in one way or another."
Zhu cited one example where a judge herself intervened to help a child who would otherwise have fallen through the cracks.
Du Min, a judge with the Zhabei People's Court, presided over a robbery case that involved a 14-year-old from a poor family. He was sentenced to 3-5 years' probation.
The teenager expressed an interest in becoming a cook, so Du and the other judges contacted a vocational school on his behalf and arranged for him to receive training.
"Last year, I ate at a five-star hotel where he was working, and he served me lamb chops," Du told Shanghai Daily. "His father, who was seriously ill, died in 2013."
In another case, Gu Xuelei, a juvenile court judge with the Changning District People's Court, provided financial support for a child who was involved in a case and was suffering leukemia, treating the boy as his own son.
The case of the injured jaywalker involved 5-year-old Xiao Yu, who suffers from hemophilia and was cared for by his maternal grandparents while his own parents were at work.
In July 2013, the grandfather was carrying the boy across a street outside of a crosswalk and they were hit by a car. The child was left paralyzed from the waist down.
His parents were distraught, later divorcing. The father sued his former father-in-law and won 138,000 yuan (US$20,974) in compensation to pay for his son's medical expenses, including blood transfusions once a week. But the compensation did not cover all his ongoing expenses.
Judges at the Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court helped the father apply to receive aid from the special fund and the son was awarded 50,000 yuan.
"We are so grateful to the court for this help," the boy's paternal grandmother said.
Deng Xingqin, an official with the Shanghai Children's Foundation — a branch of the local Women's Federation, said other funds are being created to help children, including one for young people whose parents are drug addicts.
"We are gratified to have court assistance in setting up these funds," Deng said. "There are so many minors needing help."
Both the courts and the foundation actively seek donations from companies and individuals.
"We are calling for more entities to becoming involved," Zhu said. "Looking after needy children is the responsibility of all of us."