The welfare ministry decided Wednesday to set up mental health care centers for children who lost parents to the March disaster in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, ministry sources said.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has concluded that such facilities are necessary to enlist more psychiatrists and provide thorough care to more than 1,500 children now without one or both parents.
The program will be financed by ¥2.7 billion earmarked for that purpose in the first extra budget following the disaster.
Among children aged 17 and younger, there were 234 orphans as of Aug. 31 — 93 in Iwate, 120 in Miyagi and 21 in Fukushima.
Another 1,295 children lost one parent — 445 in Iwate, 711 in Miyagi and 139 in Fukushima.
The ministry believes their mental condition could take a turn for the worse over time.
However, there are only about 300 child psychiatrists in Japan and many child counseling centers are also short of mental caregivers. To make up for the shortage, the new care centers will create a system to bring together local school counselors, experts at child counseling offices, pediatricians and volunteers to exchange information.
A care team will be formed in each municipality to continue offering help while monitoring the mental health of the children, who have moved in with relatives or begun living with only one parent.
The mental health care centers will also conduct study sessions and provide on-the-job training for caregivers, including counselors and volunteers, to enhance the quality of the care services.