Like adoption, fostering a child is a long process that involves careful planning, complicated procedures and adaptation that affects every family member. In these three-series we follow Melodie Cook and her family on their journey from deciding to foster a Japanese girl, to meeting her and raising her as their older child.
“I want siblings!”
Two years ago, my son Shinji* started saying this pretty much every day. Having no other immediate family than us in Japan, we started understanding where he was coming from, but I was concerned about whether or not we could handle another child. I was over 50, so I knew that I didn’t have the energy for a really small child full-time. My husband, however, was well connected within the foster/adoptive community in our prefecture, so I suggested that we find a child who would like to do weekend visits with us. To do this, we had to start the foster parent certification process, which involved going to information sessions, attending talks by professionals and spending two days at an institution (I find it difficult to call these places “orphanages” now that I know many of the children in them have living parents) to play with the kids and see what their daily lives were like.
In order to expand our family, we decided to go through the process of getting our fostering certification. We began attending meetings where doctors and social welfare professionals gave statistics about the increasing number of children being put into institutionalized care, why this was happening, and what kinds of issues these children had. While the meetings were certainly informative, they were hardly practical. In other words, no advice was being given to potential foster parents about what to do when certain issues came up. We learned about ADHD, various learning disabilities, and so on, but no practical advice was given for how foster parents should handle these issues.