Get to Know Mirai no Mori Series #1 – Children’s Care Homes
We are starting a new series that lets you know a little more in-depth about Mirai no Mori and the children we support. Over the next few blogs, we will share about the institutional care system in Japan, the realities and challenges that the children face, and our programs and methodologies that we have developed over the years. We sincerely hope this series will provide more insights into the institutional care system in Japan and the Mirai no Mori’s mission.
As a part of child welfare institutions, children’s care (foster) homes are defined by Japan’s Child Welfare Act as follows:
- “A foster home shall be a facility intended for admitting, and providing foster care with, children without a guardian (excluding infants; provided, however, that infants shall be also included in the case where it is particularly necessary for ensuring a steady living environment or due to other reasons; the same shall apply hereinafter in this Article), children abused, and other children in need of foster care in terms of their environment, as well as intended for providing consultation and other assistance for self-reliance to those who have left there.” (Japan’s Child Welfare Act, Chapter III, Article 41)【1】
While these facilities are under the prefectural governments’ jurisdiction, not all municipalities have care homes like public schools or nurseries. According to a recent survey, there are currently over 600 homes in Japan fostering 27,000 children. The average age of the children in care is 12 years old, and over half of them have entered institutional care by the age of 6.【2】
The national and regional governments provide operating funds for care homes. Many factors determine the actual amount, such as location, size, number of children, and operating structure. It covers all operational costs, such as children’s cost of living, facility maintenance, staff’s salary, and administrative expense. However, while this fund secures a safe environment for children to live and get an education, some expenses out of day-to-day life are more difficult to secure. For example, birthday presents, going out to eat, and traveling are all outside of usual in-school education and difficult to allocate from governmental funds.【3】 However, the care homes recognize the importance of these extracurricular learning opportunities for the children’s overall development. To provide for such opportunities and cater to each child, many care homes source funds outside the government funding. Some homes have supporting organizations, ask for donations from individuals, and even use crowdfunding to provide additional opportunities for the children.
Children in the Homes
Before entering care homes, children first go through Child Guidance Centers. Child Guidance Centers are government agencies that work with each municipality to provide parenting consultations, respond to reports for aid-requiring children, and provide short-term accommodation for children in need of immediate protection. 【4】 The number of consultations to Child Guidance Centers has been increasing in recent years, particularly concerning child abuse. In 2019, there were 200,000 reported cases for abuse, which is 4 times more than 10 years ago.【5】
After consultation or being taken into protection, children who are deemed to require long-term aid enter care homes. There are many reasons for children to be living in care homes; however, a survey revealed that 45% of children had entered homes because of domestic abuse, and as much as 65% of children have experienced abuse at one point in the past.【2】
In a safe environment provided by the system, these children can gradually regain trust for society and adults and start to look towards their future and dreams.
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1. “社会的養護の施設等について” [On Social Welfare Facilities], Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/kodomo/kodomo_kosodate/syakaiteki_yougo/01.html (last visited Apr. 20, 2020)
(English translation) https://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail_main?id=11&vm=2
2. Child and Family Policy Bureau. 児童養護施設入所児童等調査の概要(平成30年2月1日現在) [Survey Overview on Children Admitted to Foster Homes (2018 Feb. 1)], January 2020 (online) https://www.mhlw.go.jp/content/11923000/000595122.pdf (last visited Apr. 20, 2020)
3. “児童養護施設・乳児院・自立援助ホームに寄付する” [Making donations to Foster Homes, Infant Homes, Self-reliant Living Assistance Services], shakaidekosodate.com, 2019 Aug. 29, https://shakaidekosodate.com/archives/34 (last visited Apr. 20, 2020)
4. “児童相談所の概要” [Overview of Child Consultation Centers], Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, https://www.mhlw.go.jp/bunya/kodomo/dv11/01-01.html (last visited Apr. 20, 2020)
5. Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. “令和元年度 児童相談所での児童虐待相談対応件数” [2019 Numbers of Abuse Report Responded at Child Consultation Centers], (online) https://www.mhlw.go.jp/content/000696156.pdf (last visited Apr. 20, 2020)