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An Introduction To Social Care In Japan

What Is
“Social Care” ?

The Japanese “social care” (社会的養護) is the system in which local governments provide protective care to children without parents or children whose parents are unable to raise the child.
This page gives the outline of social care in Japan.

Factors That Make Child Care At Home Impossible

Not being able to raise one’s own child… it can happen to anybody.

Child Abuse

Child Abuse

Child abuse consists of physical, psychological and sexual abuse as well as child neglect. Behind such abusive behavior, many kinds of socioeconomic factors might lay such as the parent’s health condition, economic insecurity and isolation.

Health Problem

Health Problems

In addition to the “physical” diseases, psychiatric diseases of a parent is also an important issue. Mental problems such as depression, schizophrenia and alcohol addiction have the potential to leave the parent unemployed or prevent the parent from taking appropriate care of the child.

Financial Problem

Financial Problems

The employment status of the parent could affect the parent’s child rearing capability. Related to this issue, the rise of the relative poverty rate among households with children is drawing attention in Japan in recent years (referred to as 子どもの貧困).

Divorce & Domestic Violence

Divorce & Domestic Violence

After divorce, the single mother/father (ひとり親) has to take all the burden of the household, from securing a decent income to taking care of the child.
Domestic violence (DV) in front of the eyes of the child corresponds to psychological child abuse.

Incidents & Accidents

Incidents & Accidents

Being involved in an unexpected event like a traffic accident, a fire or even a criminal incident could take away the parent’s child rearing capability. Getting paid an insurance money does not replace the loss in human resources.

Natural Disaster

Natural Disaster

Natural disasters can leave the child an orphan, and relatives might be unable to take care of him/her instead. Even if there was no casualty, the economic loss could pressure the parent’s child rearing ability.

Guaranteeing Proper Childhood Environment
Regardless Of The Condition Of The Household

The Role Of The Public Sector In Securing The Rights Of Children

Authorities in the local governments in Japan have the responsibility to provide protective care to the children whose parents do not have or are likely to lose their child care capability. Part of the welfare system aimed to achieve this is called social care (社会的養護). Social care plays the roles listed below, under the principles “for the best interest of children” and “foster children in the hand of the entire society”.

Fostering

Social care raises children who couldn’t be appropriately raised in their original households. It is believed that family-like environment is desirable in alternative care facilities. But in the cases of children that have difficult conditions such as a trauma from an abusive treatment, the balance between professional care and such family-like environment needs to be thought out.

Psychological Care

Inappropriate rearing such as child abuse causes psychological wounds or disruptions in mental development. In social care, these problems are met with therapeutic interventions by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in order to recover proper development.

Local Community Support

Social care is putting more effort into the support of the local parents and local communities, in the hope of reducing child abuse or detecting child abuse earlier. Social care is also responsible for providing aftercare to the people who left social care facilities, which makes it even more important to build a closer relationship with local communities.

How Children Get In Touch With Social Care

Child Guidance Centers* Plays An Important Role

* Child guidance centers (児童相談所) are set up in each prefectures and government ordinance cities in Japan.

identification

(1) Identification

  • Consultation from parents or relatives
  • Consultation or report from a school or a medical facility
  • Consultation or report from a neighbor
  • Protection by police
Temporary Custody

(2) Temporary Custody

The child guidance center ascertains the status of the child, and takes him/her to its temporary custody facility if necessary. It examines the child’s circumstances, and evaluate the possibility of turning the child back home to provide home assistance. If it determines that the child should not be turned back to his/her parents, it will decide a measure of alternative care such as transferring to a children’s home.

Admission

(3) Admission

The child starts living in a children’s home or a household of foster parents. Facility to which a child is placed will be based on availability. Sometimes children are placed in an unfamiliar location.

Welfare Services In Social Care

The Services And Its Providers

< Alternative Care >

Alternative care is the set of measures in which a child is separated from his/her parent(s) and raised in facilities or foster parents. The necessity of such separation is being judged by a child guidance center, and a consent of the parent(s) is not required when the court approves the child guidance center’s decision. Depending on the child’s circumstances, this separation could end in months or last until the age limit of social care (18 years old).

Temporary Custody Facility
(一時保護所)

When there is an urgent need to protect a child, the child is taken to a temporal custody facility in child guidance centers and spends there for days or more. Some children are kept under restriction for a long time when there is no permanent facilities available.
Children's Home
(児童養護施設)

Children's homes are the facilities to raise children in the ages roughly between 2 to 18. Children live in these facilities and go to ordinary schools. Some children's homes have satellite facilities (group homes) which make use of ordinary detached housings. There are about 600 children's homes around Japan. [27,888 children (March 2016)]
More details
Foster Parents
(里親)

Foster parents raise children in the ages between 0 to 18 in their own households. In Japan, this is different from adoption in that the relationships between foster parents and a fostered child is impermanent (if they adopt the child they are no longer called foster parents). [4,973 children (March 2016)]
Infant Home
(乳児院)

Infant homes take care of infants in the ages up to 2. It is virtually an infant version of children's homes, but unlike children's homes they are usually set up by hospitals. [2,901 children (March 2016)]
Family Home
(ファミリーホーム)

This is an intermediate form of care between children's homes and foster parents. The owner of the home raise 5 or 6 children with the help of a couple of assistant care staffs. [1,261 children (March 2016)]
Another legal system closely related to alternative care is the special adoption (特別養子縁組) system. When a special adoption is made, the adoptive parents are legally the only parents of the adopted child. Because of the permanency of the relationship between the parents and the child, special adoption is often times not considered to be a part of alternative care system.

< Other Supportive Systems >

When there is no need to separate a child from his/her parents, social care institutions listed below provide home assistance, day care or temporary accommodation to support the child and the parents. Child guidance centers have the authority to determine what measures to be taken in which type of facility (excluding short-stay services).

Psychological Treatment Facility For Children
(児童心理治療施設)

Facilities of this type provide psychological treatment and other related services to children who have difficulty in adapting to schools etc. Its name was changed from another name ("情緒障害児短期治療施設")in 2016. [1,399 children (March 2016)]
Facility To Support The Development Of Children's Self-sustaining Capacity
(児童自立支援施設)

Facilities of this type provide directional intervention to children with delinquent behaviors. [1,395 children (March 2016)]
Maternal And Child Living Support Facility
(母子生活支援施設)

Facilities of this type accommodates a mother and her children who are in need of protection, for example from an abusive partner, and support their re-establishment of life. [5,479 children (March 2016)]
Independence Support Home
(自立援助ホーム)

An independence support home provides cheap housing to those who left social care facilities such as children's homes, and support their employment through supervision and advice. Youth under the age of 20 can use (for students of higher education, until the end of the school year in which they turn 22). [516 children (March 2016)]]
Short-stay & Twilight-stay
(ショートステイ & トワイライトステイ)

When parents are unable to take care of their child for a short period of time, they can have their child taken care at a local children's home. Short-stay is for 1 to 7 stays overnights, whereas Twilight-stay is usually for several hours at night on weekdays. These services are used on the parents' own accord, and not included in the measures enforced by child guidance centers.
In some cases other facilities, such as institutions for children with disability, are included in "social care". Services in the private sector like dorms and babysitters are not part of the social care system.

Source(1): 厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)子ども家庭局家庭福祉課 “社会的養育の推進に向けて” September 2017 ( Link )
* The number of children are based on MHLW’s “福祉行政報告例”, as of March 31st 2016.
* Facility To Support The Development Of Children’s Self-sustaining Capacity (児童自立支援施設) includes two national facilities.

Source(2): 厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) 新たな社会的養育の在り方に関する検討会 “新しい社会的養育ビジョン” August 2017 ( Link )

The Issue Of Child Abuse

As The Number Of Child Abuse Report Explodes,
Social Care Needs A Boost In Capacity

Number of Child Abuse Reported
To Child Guidance Centers

Source: 厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)子ども家庭局家庭福祉課 “社会的養育の推進に向けて” December 2017 ( Link )
* Based on MHLW’s “福祉行政報告例”.
* Fukushima Prefecture’ data was excluded from the FY 2010 survey.

Number of Child Who
Experienced Abuse in the Past

Source: 厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) “児童養護施設入所児童等調査” February 1st 2013 ( Link )

Definition Of Child Abuse

Any of the act listed below, when done to a juvenile under the age of 18 by his/her guardian, corresponds to child abuse (児童虐待) in the Japanese law.

Physical Abuse
Hit, kick, slap, throw down, shake intensively, sear, drown, strangle by the neck, constrain to a room with ropes and the like
Psychological Abuse
Verbal intimidation, ignoring, discriminatory treatment among siblings, violence to a family member or a sibling in front of the eyes of the child (domestic violence) and the like
Sexual Abuse
Sexual behavior towards the child, making the child witness sexual behaviors, touch the child's sexual organs, make the child touch other's sexual organs, take pornography and the like
Neglect
Lock up inside, starving, keep the child in an extraordinarily insanitary condition, leave inside a car, not taking the child to a medical institution when in serious condition and the like

Source: 厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) “児童虐待の定義と現状” ( Link )
* In Japan, the article 2 of the Act on the Prevention, etc. of Child Abuse stipulates the definition of child abuse.
* The term “guardian” mentioned here includes a person in parental authority, a guardian of minor, a foster parent and a head of children’s home.

When You Spotted A Possible Child Abuse Case…

  • The number 189 is a nation-wide dial contact to your local child guidance center (児童相談所).
  • The dial service is given in Japanese.
  • You can choose to stay anonymous when making a call.
  • Information about you and your report will be kept confidential.
  • In order to connect to your local child guidance center, the dial system will try to identify your location based on your area code. In some fixed phones and in all mobile phones, you will have to manually type in a postal code etc. to tell your location.

Source: 厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) “児童相談所全国共通ダイヤルについて” ( Link )
* The list of all child guidance centers as of April 1st 2016 is provided by MHLW. Link

About The Orange Ribbon Movement

オレンジリボン運動

The Orange Ribbon Movement (オレンジリボン運動) is a Japanese citizen’s campaign calling to eliminate child abuse, by using the Orange Ribbon Mark (TM) as an symbol of child abuse prevention.

NPO Lights On Children is also an supporter of the Orange Ribbon Movement To Prevent Child Abuse.

Source: 認定特定非営利活動法人 児童虐待防止全国ネットワーク(NPO Japan Network for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) “オレンジリボンについて” ( Link )
* The Orange Ribbon Mark is a trademark of NPO Japan Network for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (認定特定非営利活動法人 児童虐待防止全国ネットワーク).

Related Links

(The content of this page was revised on March 23 2018)