Expand support for adults taking in children under foster parent system

Even if foster parents take in children who cannot live with their parents due to abuse or poverty, it is not easy to build a good relationship with such children. The central and local governments should take measures to support foster parents to prevent them from having to handle things on their own.

The foster parent system is a framework in which foster parents are entrusted by a local government to take care of children who are separated from their parents. However, it is said that there have been a number of cases in which foster parents have been unable to establish a good relationship with their foster children, leading to the end of the foster parents being entrusted with the children.

In a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, it was confirmed that in the two years from fiscal 2019, there were about 550 children whose relationships were terminated with foster parents or so-called family homes, where several children live together under foster care in a single facility. There were many cases in which the foster parents were troubled by the problematic behavior of the children, making it difficult to continue the relationship.

Many of the children put in the care of the foster parents had been subjected to abuse by their birth parents. It is likely that many of these children distrust adults.

It is said that some foster parents regret that they were not able to deal with the children and give up on continuing in that role.

There are about 42,000 children in Japan who cannot live with their birth parents. Many of them are placed in child welfare facilities, but there is a limit to the amount of individual attention that can be given to each child in a group setting.

The foster care system, which allows children to live in a homelike environment and feel a connection with their foster parents, is of great significance. The percentage of children living with foster parents or in family homes is increasing, and in recent years the total number has exceeded 7,000.

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, some of the social gatherings between foster parents that had been held in various places have been canceled or postponed. Some foster parents must be feeling increasingly isolated, unable to seek advice from more experienced peers about their problems.

The central and local governments must analyze the causes of deteriorating relationships between foster parents and children and expand support for foster parents. It is also important to assign specialized personnel, such as child welfare officers and child psychologists, as well as staff who can provide consultations to foster parents.

Repeatedly being placed in the care of different foster parents could cause psychological trauma to children. When matching children with foster parents, it is essential to consider the children’s feelings and physical and mental well-being, as well as future goals, so that both the child and the foster parent can start their life together in a satisfactory manner.

There have been many serious cases of abuse across the country. The number of abuse consultation cases handled by child consultation centers nationwide has exceeded a record 200,000. It is also a challenge to deal with children whose household faces financial difficulties.

Discussions must be deepened on how society raises children who cannot live in a household.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 27, 2022.