If you have been following this series and have wondered what the “end” of the foster experience looks like: read on!
I wrote last in 2018 when our foster daughter Natsumi was still in middle school and doing better than we’d ever expected there. While she didn’t enter the high school she hoped to, we helped her choose a private one in our prefecture, well known for its teachers’ good reputation in helping students with learning disabilities reach their full potential.
Three years ago, she moved into the dormitory there, at times struggling—as she has always done—with peer relationships, but still made some friends and joined a sports team. However, there were times, when she was a first-year student, when she’d call us (actually my husband) and cry and we’d have her come and stay with us for a few days where she could unwind in her own room, be spoiled by me and return to school when she was ready.
She surprised us, when she was a second-year student, by writing a speech about her experiences as a foster child never having known her parents and delivering it to her peers. She did this with the support of one of her teachers at the school and we believe this helped her peers understand her and her history. What a brave thing to have done—she admonished her fellow students for complaining about their parents when she had never met her.
she admonished her fellow students for complaining about their parents when she had never met hers
I think this was a pivotal move for her. Once she’d done that, she found more confidence and started getting more involved at the school. She managed her sports team, was on the student council and started getting more active and being more positive.
Then she applied for a grant to foster children to attend tertiary education and received it. She picked a university in another prefecture and didn’t have a plan B, although we encouraged her to think about it. However, this past week, we found out that she passed the recommendation examination for that university. We were over the moon when she got her results.
She also met her birth mother for the first time in her life, although I don’t know what happened with that, because I am afraid of prying and would prefer that she tell me in her own time. Before she left our prefecture, she also hopes to meet one of her biological brothers. I am so glad that at the end of her journey with us and before she started this new phase of her life, she was able to get a sense of where she comes from.
before she started this new phase of her life, she was able to get a sense of where she comes from
Unfortunately, I had to miss her high school graduation because I am currently on a program in Canada with students for five weeks. Happily, one of her favorite caregivers from the institution where she lived from grades one to five offered to go in my stead and I was happy that she could do so. She was a big part of Natsumi’s life until she came to live with us—and is still.
My husband will be moving Natsumi into her own apartment soon. I left money for furnishing it, but I wish I could be part of that process. It will be so strange and sad when I return from Canada to her empty room. I hope she leaves some things so that some memory of her presence will still be with us even when she isn’t. Maybe I’ll send her a message on Line telling her to buy a bottle of her favorite scent to leave behind so that her essence will always be there.
Luckily, I will be back in Japan in time for her university entrance ceremony. My husband has booked my train and hotel reservations, and for once, I will pack handkerchiefs in my purse—because this mama will probably go all verklempt with pride when she hears Natsumi’s name being announced at the ceremony.
As I have written before, unlike so many foster children who don’t go on to tertiary education, Natsumi is going all the way. She found her dream, researched the way to achieve it and is on her way to do that. She is an inspiration. She is one of the strongest and bravest people I’ve ever met.
She found her dream, researched the way to achieve it and is on her way to do that. She is an inspiration.
Even though my friends tell me that it’s my and my husband’s doing, I still tell them that her success is all her own. All we did was provide a calm, loving and supportive environment for her and let her find her own way. This is what all parents do, right? I am proud to continue to be a small part of her success story and look forward to how she will continue to amaze us.
And, while our “official” foster parent duties end when Natsumi turns 20, she will always be part of our family and welcome to live with us again whenever she wants. We will always be there for her, no matter what.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you Savvy Tokyo for giving me this platform to share my experiences with readers. Each foster family is different, but I hope that our story will inspire others to foster and give more deserving children a chance to have a better life than they would likely have had if they had stayed in institutions, no matter how kind and caring the staff was, until aging out and being thrust out into the world to fend for themselves.
Thank you for taking this journey with me and my family. Bless you all!
For more information on adopting in Japan, see the following articles:
For general information on adoption in Japan, visit The Japan Children’s Rights Network.
“Confessions & Confusions” is Melodie Cook’s regular column on adoption and fostering in Japan.