American and Japanese Youth Leaders from Foster Care Systems Share their Stories
On September 7, 2016, six American and four Japanese youth in the foster care system in the United States and Japan gathered in Tokyo to attend a symposium to discuss ways to encourage and increase participation of foster care youth in the foster care system.
The symposium took place as a part of the 2016 TOMODACHI Foster Youth Leadership Program and included two trips this year. For the first trip, six members from the Japan team visited the United States from July 29, 2016, for ten days and engaged in activities and site visits. The second trip took place from September 2, in which six members from the United States traveled to Japan.
The symposium began with opening remarks from Ms. Miho Awazu, Director of International Foster Care Alliance (IFCA), followed by a presentation by Ms. Saki Nagano, Director of the NPO, Hinatabokko, who talked about the importance of foster care youth to be actively involved in improving the foster care system. She continued to explain the significance of having their voices and views heard and what it means to participate in organizations that engage with foster youth.
Subsequently, each of the six program participants from the U.S. and the four Japanese participants presented about their experience working with various foster youth organizations, as a participant, leader, and supporter. “It has helped me find my advocacy and share my experiences,” disclosed Ms. Janell Braxton, one of the participants.
These young leaders also participated in the U.S.-Japan Youth Summit held on September 9 in Tokyo. At the summit, each member from the U.S. and Japan shared their individual experiences with the foster care system in each of their countries. Every story was unique and revealed the differences in foster care and the social welfare system as a whole. At the end of the summit, one of the young leaders conducted an exercise with the audience for them to gain a better understanding of what it is like to be in the foster care system. Throughout the program the Americans and Japanese youth increased their understanding of foster care systems in both countries, realized the importance of sharing their stories and being actively engaged in society, as well as deepening their friendship with each other.