More than half of the families who have taken in about 230 children orphaned by the March 11 disasters have applied for government benefits under the kinship foster care program, a welfare ministry survey showed.
As of Saturday, the guardians of 131 orphans age 18 or younger had been granted such benefits, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
The Child Welfare Law stipulates that a kinship foster parent — a guardian within three degrees of kinship to an orphan — and unrelated foster parents can receive monthly living expenses ranging from ¥47,680 to ¥54,980 depending on the child’s age, as well as education expenses.
In addition, the guardians of 10 orphaned children who are not within three degrees of kinship were certified as ordinary foster parents and received the benefits, the ministry added.
There were a total of 236 orphans in the three worst-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, as of Saturday. A home for children took in three of them, but the rest were sent to foster homes, in many cases to live with relatives.
The number of applicants for the benefits was initially low because of a lack of information, the ministry said, adding it is increasing efforts to inform potential applicants about the benefits.
Some of the relatives of orphans were also reluctant to apply for benefits when the parents remained unaccounted for but had not been confirmed dead.
But as six months have passed since the disaster, many of them are beginning to accept that the parents died in the disasters and are starting to apply for the benefits, a ministry official said.
Ordinary foster parents must be financially stable and undergo training, but there are no requirements for kinship foster parents as priority is placed on children being reared by a relative, the ministry said.