Three weeks after China's devastating earthquake, authorities have taken steps to alleviate the suffering of bereaved families, but also moved to prevent growing criticism for the high proportion of students killed in their classrooms, the Times of London reported Thursday.

Many children orphaned by the quake could end up being adopted by parents who lost children in the quake, according to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the provincial government. About 1,869 children were orphaned by the tremor, and another 9,000 were killed in collapsed schools.

The first aim will be to find homes for the children with any surviving relatives, according to the guidelines. Those from local ethnic minority groups, such as the mountain-living Qiang or Tibetans, will be found homes that will ensure little disruption as well as respect for their religious traditions.

Parents who have lost their children in the tremor will be considered first for adopting orphans whose family members cannot be found. This will help to ensure that the children remain in villages or towns as close as possible to where they once lived. Children aged 10 and over will be consulted to obtain their agreement in any adoption.

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