Academic journal article Social Work

The Experiences and Perspectives of Japanese Substitute Caregivers and Maltreated Children: A Cultural-Developmental Approach to Child Welfare Practice

Academic journal article Social Work

The Experiences and Perspectives of Japanese Substitute Caregivers and Maltreated Children: A Cultural-Developmental Approach to Child Welfare Practice

Article excerpt

This article describes the experiences and perspectives of child welfare workers and maltreated children living in Japanese state care through the theoretical lens of cultural developmental psychology (see, for example, Shweder et al., 2006). The everyday experiences of children and their caregivers are mediated through cultural beliefs about children and their development, including what is perceived to be mature or desirable within specific cultural contexts (Bamba & Haight, 200%; Shweder et al., 2006). Thus, understanding of the experiences and perspectives of children and child welfare workers within their cultural contexts is necessary for culturally competent child welfare practices. Such understanding allows professionals to step outside of that which they take for granted to consider how differently they may serve maltreated children in their own society (Bamba & Haight, 2009a; Cameron & Freymond, 2006).

Examination of Japanese norms is particularly instructive, in part, because Japanese socialization practices are distinct from those in Western societies (Shimizu & LeVine, 2001; Shwalb, Nakazawa, & Shwalb, 2005). Japanese child welfare practices reflect Japanese socialization practices that are fundamentally developmental and ecological (Bamba & Haight, 2009a), emphasizing children's feelings and the development of strong emotional ties between children and their adult caregivers (for example, Azuma, 1994). Although many western scholars espouse a developmental-ecological approach to the care of maltreated children, a discontinuity exists between such scholarship and actual practice (for example, Scannapieco & Connell-Carrick, 2005); many interventions for maltreated children focus on cognitive and behavioral approaches (Barth, 2007).

This article reviews literature on Japanese child welfare and socialization beliefs and practices and an ethnographic research program that was conducted over a three-year period within residential institutions and the local public schools that the resident children attend (Bamba & Haight, 2007, 2009a, 2009b). The first study in Bamba and Haight's (2007) research program involved individual interviews with eight child welfare workers and nine children from two institutions and with 12 educators from three schools. It focused on adults' goals for the development of institutionalized, maltreated children. A second study (Bamba & Haight, 2009a, 2009b), involving 18 workers and nine children, was conducted at one of the two institutions. Data collection methods for this study included individual interviews with children, multiple individual and group interviews with adults, record reviews, participant observation, and correspondence with adults through e-mail and telephone.This study focused on adults' strategies for supporting maltreated children's attainment of their developmental goals, children's experiences, and adults' perspectives on children's challenges. Part of the second study involved an intervention for adult participants to facilitate their activities to support the children in their care.

JIDOU YOUGO SHISETSU (CHILD CARE INSTITUTIONS)

In Japan, child maltreatment cases--defined as cases of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse or neglect by the child's guardian or caregiver (the Japanese Child Maltreatment Prevention Law)--are handled by the governmental child welfare offices and have rapidly increased in the past two decades, from 1,171 in 1991 to 37,323 in 2006 (Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, 2007). Most children who enter Japanese state protective care do not live in individual foster homes but in groups in government-regulated residential institutions called Jidou Yougo Shisetsu (Jidou = child, Yougo = protective care, Shisetsu = institutions [hereafter, following Bamba & Haight, 2007, 2009a, 2009b, child care institutions). Currently, approximately 30,000 children (ages approximately two to 18) live in 560 child care institutions nationwide, and 3,400 children live with foster families (Foundation for Children's Future, 2008). …

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