Can Child Welfare Coexist with Diverse Families? Case of Children in Need of Social Care in Japan

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Yoko NOBE, University of Kochi, Japan
This study explores factors preventing children’s access to family care by focusing on social care systems (institutional care, foster care, and adoption) in contemporary Japan.

Since diverse families have become more widespread, the modern family model as the standard one has been criticized for being narrow and repressive . However, the Japanese social care system as substitute care regards the modern family as the best model in which children should be raised. Therefore, social care systems not only contradict diverse families but also paradoxically prevent children access to family care in Japan. This study portrays how social care systems conflict with diverse families and cause the underdevelopment of family care systems (foster care and adoption) in Japan.

This issue was investigated by analyzing laws (civil law and social welfare law), policies, white papers, statistics, and previous research, including research which I conducted.

The findings of this research are as follows: First, the priorities of various stakeholders of social care systems (birth families, social workers, foster parents, adoptive parents, children’s homes, local child protection centers, and Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) differ and conflict. Second, only modern families or quasi-modern families can become adoptive and foster parents (single persons and same sex couples cannot become adoptive parents, and it is difficult for them to be foster parents in Japan). Third, only a few children without complex backgrounds and disabilities can enter adoptive and foster care.

This study concludes by criticizing contemporary Japanese social care systems that stigmatize and rank children in social care systems.