Fewer than 60 percent of child consultation centers in Japan mediated “special” adoptions of children aged below 6 in fiscal 2013 due to staff shortages, a health ministry report showed Thursday.
A major purpose of the centers is to allow abused children or children who cannot be raised by their own parents for various reasons to be raised by another family. But only 57.9 percent, or 114 of the 207 centers across Japan, said they entrusted such children to registered foster parents in the business year that ended in March 2014, according to the survey by a ministry research team.
Unlike the case of regular adoptions, where legal connections with biological parents are retained, special adoptions allow the adopted children, who are under 6, to be treated as the biological children of their foster parents, erasing the previous legal ties.
The research team said the centers, which are supposed to play a key role in mediating adoptions, have not been active in doing so due to problems such as having to respond to child abuse cases amid chronic staff shortages and losing experienced workers through personnel changes.
A total of 276 cases were referred to foster parents, 267 of which ended in successful adoptions during the period. Combining the cases mediated by private organizations, the total number of special adoptions in Japan came to 474 during the fiscal year, it said.
The ministry conducted the survey in August and September last year, with 197, or 95.2 percent, of the 207 child consultation centers nationwide responding.
The survey showed 46 centers, or 23.4 percent, dealt with one case of adoption, 34 centers, or, 17.3 percent, two cases, and another 34 centers three or more cases.
Centers that did not mediate any adoptions in the year totaled 78, or 39.6 percent, and five centers gave no reply on the topic, it said.
The survey also showed only 56 centers had a full-time staffer specializing in adoptions even though child consultation centers must hold interviews with both foster parents and children and check the home environment prior to making a decision.
Hiroyasu Hayashi, a social welfare professor at Japan Women’s University who led the research team, said the centers have a significant role to play in supporting families even after children are adopted.
“There is a need to raise more specialists by allowing staff to continue working for a long period and strengthen coordination with private organizations,” he added.