As of May 14, there were 141 orphaned children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures as a result of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated much of the region.
By comparison, 68 children were reported to have lost both parents in the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
Some reports show that some 500 children lost at least one parent in the March 11 catastrophe, compared with some 330 children in the Kobe quake. The number of children who lost one or both parents March 11 could increase as more data are collected.
Of the 141 orphans, two have entered children’s social welfare facilities. The remaining 139 were taken in by other families, most of them relatives.
Although many people across the nation have offered to become foster parents, some have expressed concern that if children are forced to live in areas remote from their native homes, they might develop psychological problems.
Orphans now living with relatives are expected to experience less stress than those taken in by nonrelatives.
Regardless of where children have found new homes, the loss of one or both parents is traumatic. In addition, the orphans experienced unprecedented tremors that destroyed their homes and killed friends and teachers.
Local governments and private organizations concerned should interview orphans and children who lost a parent and find out what problems they face and what kind of help they need most. The cooperation of foster parents is also indispensable.
Orphans’ relatives who became foster parents can receive financial support to raise and educate them under the Child Welfare Law. As of May 14, only two applications were made for the support. It is the public sector’s duty to inform foster parents of this support system and to encourage them to apply for the assistance.
Ashinaga Ikuei Kikin (Educational and Emotional Support for Orphans Worldwide), a philanthropic body, has started giving grants to orphans and children who lost a parent.
Such support will help children return to a stable life, at least financially.
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