FUKUOKA — Japan’s first nationwide organization promoting the popularization of “child advocacy,” a movement by individuals and groups to speak for the best interests of children suffering from abuse and other conditions to protect their rights, was launched on March 27, with the headquarters set in this southwest Japan city.
Child advocacy is active in the U.K. and other countries. Child advocates, in charge of making children’s voices heard, talk with struggling children about numerous topics, including their living conditions and their hopes for the future, and make sure as third-party supporters that their wishes and thoughts are reflected when child consultation centers hand the children over to foster parents or foster care facilities. The advocates also support the children after they are placed under foster care, as well as when they make decisions on their future such as education and employment.
It came to light that in the two fatal child abuse cases in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward and the Chiba Prefecture city of Noda in 2018 and 2019, respectively, local child consultation centers ignored the girls’ requests that they didn’t want to go home. The Japanese government has since been considering revising the Child Welfare Act to require local governments to make efforts in hiring child advocates.
A total of five organizations from Chiba, Kagawa and Fukuoka prefectures and 19 individuals joined the March 27 online meeting for the launch of the new group “national child advocacy council,” where they confirmed that they will work together to promote child advocacy. The group’s administrative office has been established at the nonprofit Child Advocacy Center Fukuoka in the city of Fukuoka, and it plans to hold training seminars for child advocates in Tokyo and Fukuoka in the first fiscal year. It also will establish uniform criteria for advocate certification.
Masashi Aizawa, child welfare professor at Oita University, who has assumed the inaugural chairmanship, commented, “We want to expand the (child) advocacy movement across Japan.”
(Japanese original by Hayato Jojima, Kyushu News Department)