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Boys Town Model® Makes Impact on Japanese Child Welfare

From April to May 1, a group of 30 ​Japanese child welfare agency directors and staff received training on social skill techniques for at-risk youth using the Boys Town Model. For over 12 years, they have attended Boys Town trainings both in Japan and here in the United States, at Boys Town and at Boys Town California to learn about how to help foster better relationships with children and families.

Written in Japanese on large pieces of chart paper across the walls at the Boys Town Staff Training Center were ways the child welfare directors and staff in Japan had completed a training activity on how to “task analyze” a procedure or skill.  From throwing beans to casting out demons, worshipping in shrines, making “mochi” rice cakes, and relaxing in social public bath houses, the goal was to learn about different processes and develop skills or procedures beneficial to Japanese children and families that are not known in the American culture. The techniques allowed the Japanese culture to “customize” Boys Town’s techniques with their own while helping further their mission as well as Boys Town’s.

Different strategies were discussed and the group remained focused and attentive as Evelyn Wilson, Senior Training Consultant of National Community Support Services of Boys Town California, lectured and gave key insight while Dr. Richard Kuyama, translated her every word. Wilson has been part of the partnership with Japan from the very beginning and has traveled to Japan to lecture on Boys Town’s techniques.

“I’ve been very privileged to work on this project from the beginning and see it come full circle,” said Wilson. “It has strongly reinforced the fact that regardless of their culture, children are children and behavior is behavior. Kids are kids no matter where you go.They have many of the same issues, the same concerns and the same needs. Boys Town has had a wonderful opportunity to affect child care worldwide.”

Japan was one of the places Dr. Flanagan visited following World War II to help with the child welfare system. In his travels to Japan, Father Flanagan noted the disturbing lack of child welfare available in the country. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but progress continues to be made with Japan’s welfare system.

“Coming here from Japan, we strive to help needy families in their day-to-day life and Boys Town helps us tremendously with vital skills that can be taken back to Japan,” said Dr. Richard Kuyama. “Teaching kids through positive reinforcement and being able to solve problems, whether big or small is exactly what we need. Whether in Japan or here in the United States, Father Flanagan had the same dream we do, to keep the dream alive and keep helping as long as we are able.”

Kennichi Hori, Sub-Director of Hannan Fukushi Jigyokai (Social Welfare Corporation) who’s company focuses on short-term treatment for children with emotional disturbances, has noticed a dramatic difference since using the Boys Town implementation. Established in 2002, the agency brought in youth that had been kicked out of other foster homes and agencies. At the time, Hori tried learning from other Japanese agencies but because they were unsuccessful, they did not have much to offer. Hori’s agency modeled its care after existing Japanese agencies; however, these techniques proved to be unsuccessful.

“In Japan it was difficult to help without proper guidelines and knowledge,” explained Hori. “Every day, kids were out of control and involved in criminal, aggressive and sexual behavior. Around 60,000 children in Japan are currently in care.”

Once he started implementing the information he learned from Boys Town, the problems, intensity and frequency dropped down to a third of what it had been. The first couple of years were very up and down. Now the line is holding steady and dropping continuously.

“The main goal is to determine the function of their behavior problems and to ultimately teach them to function and do better in society,” said Hori. “Once their behaviors started to drop, their academic skills started improving, doubling. They were able to become successful in society and get the jobs they want. Every year, there would always be at least one drop out in high school, now we have zero. Employees feel really passionate about helping.”

Today, the concepts Boys Town teaches are spread throughout Japan in various agencies and school settings from elementary to college. Two colleges in Japan even offer Common Sense Parenting ® classes.

“It is with honor that we can help collaborate with Japan and pass on our mission and values,” said Jim Gross, Associate Vice President of National Community Support Services, Boys Town. “A big domo arigato (thank you) to all the welfare workers who came down to Boys Town.”

The Boys Town National Community Support Services department continues to work with child welfare workers who are using the Boys Town Model to ensure the youth are receiving the right care at the right time to become successful. The continued support and outreach for both Boys Town youth and at-risk youth around the world reach faraway places, keeping Father Flanagan’s dream alive.