Troubled girl finds foster families incompatible

The Yomiuri Shimbun
“It’s not my foster parents’ fault,” says this teenage girl in the Kanto region who asked to leave one set of foster parents and ran away from another foster family.

“I wonder if I can ever be part of a family,” said a 19-year-old girl from the Kanto region who moved from one foster family to another.

After being abused by her birth father, the girl was taken into temporary custody by a child consultation center in 2016, when she was in junior high school. She lived in a child welfare facility until she graduated from junior high school in the spring of 2018.

Upon entering high school, she consulted with the center, saying she wanted to start over with a different family. Thus she was placed with a middle-aged couple as foster parents.

The couple did not have any biological children and the girl was their first foster child. They were kind to her, but she began to feel suffocated by the various rules they expected her to follow.

She accidentally overheard the couple crying while discussing her. She thought she couldn’t stay there anymore, and moved to another foster family after only three weeks.

The second family was of experienced foster parents, who were kind enough to listen to her concerns. Problems at school, however, led her to stop attending and she became socially withdrawn. She could no longer face her foster parents and ran away from home after about six months from when the placement started.

She was taken into the care of a child consultation center and then placed in a child welfare facility, where she remains.

“It’s not my foster parents’ fault,” the teenager said. “I just couldn’t establish a good relationship with them.”

Psychological burden

In Japan, children who do not live with their birth parents due to abuse or other reasons have mostly been fostered in child welfare facilities.

Since the Child Welfare Law was revised in 2016, the government has been promoting foster care of children in accordance with the principle of “prioritizing family care.”

Child consultation centers are supposed to provide foster parents with practical training at child welfare facilities. The centers also should confirm the compatibility of foster parents by having them meet the children before they are entrusted with caring for the children.

Even after the children are entrusted to them, the centers should provide advice on how the children are doing. Foster parents associations and private organizations also offer assistance to foster families, but there are still many foster parents who have trouble raising children.

A veteran foster parent in the Kansai region, who has looked after about 40 foster children, said he took in a girl in her late teens a few years ago. The girl, however, repeatedly spoke and acted in an aggressive way, which mentally overwhelmed the family.

It is believed that the girl was previously abused and had been traumatized by it. The foster parent consulted with a child consulting center and had her removed from foster care placement.

“We are happy to see the children grow up as we spend time with them,” he said. “But at the same time, we are with the children 24 hours a day, so there is a risk that my household could fall apart.”