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Going West to Get East to Japan

Going West to Get East to Japan

Myrna McNitt, a life member of IFCO and one of the committed members of the Board, shares her thoughts on IFCO 2013 World Conference 'Moving Forward Hand in Hand for Foster Care'. The event took place on 13-16 September 2013 in Osaka, Japan and welcomed more than 1400 participants, including 115 young people.

"I have known Mamoru Watanabe for many years as a foster brother, a foster father and now the proud father of a beautiful daughter. Nabe worked hard for more than two years to bring the biannual IFCO conference to Osaka, Japan. Nabe along with many other Japanese leaders warmly welcomed the IFCO conference delegates and I was fortunate to be among them. When I boarded the plane to travel to the conference I had many thoughts; but one thing I knew for certain this would be a wonderful adventure in my learning about foster care from another cultural perspective and Nabe would be my cultural guide. It was a wonderful adventure of learning and sharing.

Now some weeks have passed since returning home and I have had an opportunity to reflect on the experience. So what did I take away? Japan is a country of great warmth, respect, and desire to exchange ideas about children in need of alternative care.

I was fortunate to facilitate three workshops. Participants in my workshops were eager to learn the concepts presented. They were receptive to the promotion of social inclusion of children with disabling conditions through the use of foster care. Participants saw the value of promoting the social identity of foster children by helping them complete a lifebook. Many Japanese foster parents had experienced the tragedy of the Tsunami, 2011 and were eager to discuss childhood trauma. This session was particularly moving.

There is the formal learning which happened at this conference; but this IFCO conference like others offered a rich opportunity to make new connections and reconnect with friends and colleagues from the past. The music, the food, the friendships, the watching the wonderful foster parents with their children, and the human connections, this was all part of IFCO Japan. As I sat in the closing session many participants came to thank me for the workshops. I received some gifts of thanks-a beautiful card, a fan, a handkerchief. These are now displayed with my other IFCO conference treasures in my home. But the real treasures are the friendships. Thank you Japanese foster cares, social workers, agencies, associations, and particularly- Thank you Nabe for opening my eyes to your Japanese world. I hope I will have the opportunity in the future to travel west from my home in the USA arriving east in Japan to continue the important conversations about foster care."