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An Introduction To Children’s Homes In Japan

What Is A
Children’s Home?

A children’s home (児童養護施設) is a place where children without parents or children whose parents are unable to raise them live their everyday life. Sometimes the parents are abusive, sometimes they have a serious health problem or a financial problem.
This page summarizes the basic points you should know about the children’s homes in Japan.

Number of Children’s Homes in Japan
(approx.)

600

As of October 2016,
厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)子ども家庭局家庭福祉課調べ

Number of Children Living in Children’s Homes in Japan (approx.)

27,
300

As of October 2016,
厚生労働省(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)子ども家庭局家庭福祉課

Ages of Children in Children’s Homes
(approx.)

2 – 18 years old

Source: Article 41 of the Child Welfare Act (児童福祉法第41条) and others (Infants under the age of 1 is basically reared in infant homes or by foster parents. Even after the child reaches 18, he/she is allowed to stay until 20 under certain conditions.)

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” September 2017 ( Link )

Children Live Their Everyday Life

The Similarity To Ordinary Households Matters

In children’s homes, 2- to 6-year-olds go to kindergarten, 6- to 15-year-olds go to the local elementary & junior high school. Most children go on to high school.

The older the child gets, the more places and more hours he/she is allowed to go. The children would join sports clubs, art classes and other activities. Some children’s homes take a trip with everyone in the facility.

Care staffs do the chores, go buy the necessities and prepare the meals. In some cases children do the dishes. Some children’s homes take request of the dinner menu on the child’s birthday.

Children get certain amount of allowance based on their age. Many high schoolers work part-time. The allowance is usually kept and managed by care staffs.

* The above description is based on the cases of multiple children’s homes, but some children’s homes might not look exactly like this.

Understandings And Misunderstandings

What Do You Associate To The Name “Children’s Home” ?

A home for children whose parents are incapable of child rearing

A facility to provide care for children with disabilities
→ corresponds to a residential care facility (障害児入所施設) and the like


A school for children with disabilities
→ corresponds to a special need school (特別支援学校)

(Special need schools had long been stipulated in the law to be called "養護学校 yougo gakkou", which is a name very confusing to "children's homes" (児童養護施設 jidou yougo shisetsu). These are two different systems that should not be mistaken for each other, but not a few special need schools still use "養護学校 yougo gakkou" as part of their official school names.

A facility to provide directional intervention to children with bad conducts
→ corresponds to children's self-reliance support facility (児童自立支援施設)


An institution to give criminal punishments and correctional educations to juveniles
→ corresponds to a juvenile reformatory (少年院) and a juvenile prison (少年刑務所)

Quite a few people have misunderstandings on what the children in children’s homes are like. They falsely believe that children’s home (児童養護施設) is a treatment facility for children with disabilities, or an institution for children with delinquent behaviors. These misunderstandings lead to stigma towards the children, such as “they don’t seem to have any disability” or “accommodating kids with ill behavior in one place is concerning”. These allegations are casting a shadow to these children.

There might be a colleague in your office who grew up in a children’s home. If you have a child, there might be a child living in children’s home in your child’s school or sports club. Knowing what children’s homes actually are would be an important step toward an inclusive society.

* There are children with some kind of disability and children with a pattern
of undesirable behaviors living in children’s homes. But even in those cases, the reason why those children are living there is “because their parents are not able to rear them”.

It Was Once An Orphanage, Now It Is…

The Significant Rise In The Rate Of Children Whose Parents Are Alive

The roots of current Japanese children’s homes lies in the orphanage around the time period of World War II. But this equation of a children’s home being an orphanage has now become out of date.
The next graph shows the reason why each child had to start living in children’s homes. The number of children whose parents are dead or went missing has been decreasing.

What draws our attention is the rise in the numbers of child being abused or parents being ill from psychiatric and other diseases. In some cases, the child has no other place to go because his/her parents are foreigners and they lost their status of residents in Japan (such cases are probably included in the “others & unkown” category in this graph, though not verified.)
In conclusion, the group of “children whose parents are alive, but is in some kind of undesirable condition” has become the majority in children’s homes today.

* A child being reared in a children’s home doesn’t mean that the child is permanently separated from the parent(s). If the parent(s) agreed to put the child in a children’s home in the first place, the children’s home will seek the possibility of future reunion. But there are cases in which family reunion is deemed difficult or inappropriate, especially if the child’s admission was disapproved by the parent(s) and was overturned by the court’s decision.

The Reason Of The Child’s
Admission To Children’s Home

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Sorce: Based on 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 )
* Based on the “児童養護施設入所児童等調査結果” from each year (in Japanese fiscal calendar starting in every April 1st).
* “Abuse” includes abuse, overuse, neglect, laziness, abandoning and refusal to rear.
* “Financial Causes such as Bankruptcy” and “Rearing Difficulty Stemming from The Child” were not included in the questionnaire in the FY 1983 survey.

(The content of this page was revised on January 9 2018)