Creating Better Relationships between Foster Parents and Foster ChildrenSeminar on leading British program
First step is to train facilitators

A five-day seminar to train facilitators to promote the Fostering Changes Programme, a program developed in Britain to support foster parents, was held at The Nippon Foundation Headquarters in Tokyo from February 20. The seminar was held to introduce the program to Japan, with the aim of developing better relationships between foster parents and foster children. Professor Kazuhiro Kamikado of Nagano University’s Department of Social Welfare, who is serving as an advisor to the seminar, notes, “A variety of skills are included, and we hope to develop a program that will be suitable for Japan.”

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The first day of the seminar

Highly successful program developed in England

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Nagoya University Professor Kazuhiro Kamikado discussing the importance of strengthening Japan’s foster care system

The Fostering Changes Programme was developed as a foster parent training program in 1999 by a specialist team in England, where 70% of children who for whatever reason cannot live with their biological parents are placed in foster care. The program teaches foster parents how to respond appropriately when children who have been emotionally scarred by abuse and other factors display problem behavior, to create bonds and improve the relationship between foster parents and foster children. The program has shown remarkable success, with training sessions held across England.

The first seminar in Japan organized by The Nippon Foundation was held in Fukuoka in March 2016, and the February program in Tokyo was the second. The 22 participants are involved in support for foster parents at nurseries and child guidance centers in cities including Osaka, Shizuoka, Yokohama, Nagano, and Sendai.

The Fostering Changes Programme consists of 12 sessions on topics like keeping a record to understand the child’s behavior and setting limits for affirmative discipline, and is organized as weekly sessions over roughly three months. The seminar was intended to train facilitators who will be able to conduct the program in their local area, to make it available for foster parents across Japan.

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Trainers Caroline Bengo (left) and Kathy Blackeby (right)

The seminar was led by Kathy Blackeby and Caroline Bengo, clinical specialists / trainers from the Fostering Changes Training Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. In addition to the regular subjects, they also gave special training on how to use the program for parents of children going through puberty.

Japan trails other countries in foster placement

As of March 2015, close to 6,000 children in Japan were living with foster parents, while roughly 30,000 were living in nurseries and children’s homes. Although the percentage of children living with foster parents has been increasing over the past few years, at 16% Japan significantly trails other countries like Australia (93%), the United States (77%), and South Korea (44%).

Manual
Fostering Changes Programme’s foster parent training program manual

Recognizing this situation, in 2011 the Japanese government formulated foster care placement guidelines, and since then has been strengthening the foster care system so that more children can grow up in a family environment, and reexamining the tendency to place children in institutions. Nevertheless, more than 20% of foster parents are said to face problem behavior in their children, including resistance or defiance over trivial matters, not attending school, and staying out late at night.

The Fostering Changes Programme includes a training manual that is full of information on how to respond to problem behavior in children in a way that will improve the relationship, like effective praise and at times selectively ignoring the child. Professor Kamikado expressed his hopes for the program going forward, noting, “If foster parents spend 10 minutes of quality time with their foster children every day, the relationship will improve dramatically for both the parents and children.”

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