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The welfare ministry plans to dispatch staff across the country who specialize in finding foster parents for kids separated from their biological parents because of abuse or other problems, it was learned Sunday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has included 78 million yen for the plan in its budget requests for fiscal 2006, which begins next April. The project will start by assigning one such staffer to a child consultation center in each of the nation’s 47 prefectures, according to ministry officials.

The ministry has been trying to popularize the idea of adoption for children from troubled families, saying they will get a better environment compared with group life in a child welfare center.

The concept has yet to win wide acceptance. As of 2003, there were about 7,300 people registered as prospective foster parents, but only some 2,000 had adopted children, taking roughly 2,800 children under their wing.

Ministry officials said this was because many people had encountered financial difficulty or found themselves having to care for elderly relatives after they registered.

Given such circumstances, the ministry expects the special staff to strengthen ties between local welfare facilities and registered foster parents in each region, the officials said.

Specifically, they will work to select children who would be better off with foster parents. They will also play a leading role in finding people who might be willing to sign up as prospective foster parents for a troubled child.

People interested in becoming foster parents register with a prefectural government or with a municipal government in the nation’s largest cities. The number of children placed in the care of such people had continued to fall until it reached some 2,100 in fiscal 1999. However, the figure has begun to rise again as a result of increased awareness of child abuse as a social problem.

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