The common practice of shunting orphans and abused children into child-care institutions instead of placing them with foster parents has left thousands susceptible to mistreatment, social stigma and homelessness, New York-based Human Rights Watch warned Thursday in its first such report on Japan in more than a decade.

There were about 39,000 children in various child-care institutions in Japan in 2013. Government statistics show that, contrary to the global trend, the overwhelming tendency is to institutionalize kids in need of so-called alternative care.

In 2012, just 12.0 percent were in the care of foster parents. This contrasts sharply with 93.5 percent in Australia and 77.0 percent in the United States.