“Kodomo No Hi” by Timothy Bellifcayouth
Kodomo No Hi is national children’s day in Japan. It’s a bit like Mother’s or Father’s Day in America but to honor the place of children in society and, I like to think, to celebrate the child within your self. Coincidentally, serendipitously even, May is also National Foster Care Month in America. This is a month to celebrate whatever successes may come from foster care and acknowledge what needs to change. Because I live in the U.S. and do foster care advocacy work with IFCA in Japan, I cannot help but synthesize these two concepts. If Japan has a children’s day and the U.S. has a foster care month, maybe the U.S. and Japan should have a day, week, or month recognizing the experiences of foster youth and former foster youth for what they are. Sometimes these experiences will be heart warming and other times horrifying. But what’s important here is that the U.S. and Japan begin to become aware of foster care, that it becomes okay to talk about.
I already think that there is a change in public perception, a growing awareness, over the last 20 years in the U.S. and in Japan because more people have come out as having been in foster care. Not only have they come out as former foster youth but they’ve begun to talk about what those experiences were like which is a true act of courage in a world that would rather turn a blind eye. This isn’t an issue like a legal theory or an article in the news- former foster youth are your next door neighbors, your coworkers, your parents, or your husband or wife. But because they’ve been discouraged from opening up about those experiences, even when doing so would be incredibly helpful for either improving the system or resolving deeply seated personal conflicts, you might never even know it. When more former foster youth come out and speak openly about the foster care system, we neighbors, friends, and relatives are given the chance to say, “Yes, that person deserves to be treated equally under the law. Under the law, the person that sits besides me at work, or whom I’ve loved my whole life deserved to be treated fairly and perhaps the ones that come after them can.”
With this said, I want Kodomo No Hi to become a day that people simultaneously think of as Children’s Day and Foster Children’s Day. We are fortunate in America to have a month devoted to foster care. Caregivers groups, foster care advocates, government groups, and, most importantly, youth and alumni of care all have a stake in the month and can openly talk about their own issues and tell their own stories to help raise awareness about foster care. We in America are finally at the point where we can begin to assign specific sub-themes to National Foster Care Month. For example, this year’s (2015) National Foster Care Month theme is LGBTQ. We can begin to raise awareness about the LGBTQ foster care experience such as that a disproportionate number of foster youth are Gay and that in some states gay men and women are not allowed to adopt or even provide foster care. Assigning topics to National Foster Care Month allows us to raise awareness about foster care in the general public bit also raise awareness about particular foster care experiences. Despite having a National Foster Care Month, I still can’t help but think that Japan is on to something by having a day specifically for children. After all, children’s experiences are unique and foster children’s experiences might be the most unique of all. One day, we will get there.
This post is also available in: Japanese