Wang Huini says she felt her world fell apart when her 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with kidney disease last year.
According to doctors, it was going to cost 60,000 yuan ($9,770) to save the girl, yet the family's entire savings amounted to just a third of that.
"We don't have land, and my husband, the only breadwinner, earns less than 3,000 yuan a month," said the 33-year-old, who also has a younger daughter. "I felt so sad and hopeless."
With few options, she turned to her village child welfare officer, who in turn contacted her superiors in Luoning county, Henan province.
It resulted in the family receiving 4,000 yuan toward medical bills and a 150 yuan monthly living allowance. Coupled with money loaned from friends and relatives, Wang's daughter received an operation in April last year.
"She has now recovered and is doing great at school," said Li Maiyun, her welfare officer, adding that the village has many poor families in the same plight.
"There are two children with cerebral palsy, one with congenital heart disease and one who is deaf."
Fifteen children in the village now receive the monthly allowance, and there are many more throughout Luoning county, which has been piloting its child welfare intervention system since 2011. In fact, the early success of the model could provide vital experience for the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which has committed to creating a comprehensive national system.
The ministry said in late June that, along with Luoning county, it has designated the cities of Kunshan in Jiangsu province, Haining in Zhejiang province and Shenzhen in Guangdong province as "experimental zones" to explore feasible models to deliver sound child welfare services.
Noticeably, Luoning is the only poverty-stricken area, while the others are in more developed coastal regions.
Xu Jianzhong, deputy director of the ministry's department of social welfare and charity promotion, said authorities aim to eventually be able to provide living subsidies for millions of children in plight, including the homeless, disabled and seriously ill.
Youngsters in plight belong to a major target group in the plan to establish a nationwide system, he said.
"Although there are no official statistics to show the exact number of children in plight, we estimate this group is in the millions," he said. "Providing subsidies and improving services is important for their survival and development."
Improving child protection hit the headlines in China after media stories about children left in danger or hazardous situations because their birth parents failed to take care of them.