"Aiming for a world where every child can be raised with care." There is currently a shortage of staff in foster homes and securing and retaining sufficient staff to deal with children every day is a major challenge. Chaibora, a Specified Non-profit Corporation, is supporting foster homes from the viewpoint of securing and retaining staff. We spoke to Haruka Oyama-san, Representative Director.

Tour of a foster home

Please tell us about your career and how you started the organization.

At that time, I was working in the early childhood education materials department of Benesse Corporation. We learned that old teaching materials were being thrown away upon renewal, so we inquired if we could donate them to foster homes. I thought it would be appreciated, but I realized how ignorant I had been about the environment those children face. It is normal for a staff member to look after eight children at a time, and staff members struggle every day to deal with children who were born and raised under severe child neglect; some do not even have a habit of using the toilet; others display violent behaviors. Struggling to just put all children to bed each night, the foster home staff told me that teaching materials was the last thing on their mind. “We don’t need books; we need additional staff” was their response. I was shellshocked, wondering what I had done all these years in early childhood education, and why I had never realized that there were places in our society that had to grapple with far more basic issues than education.

A week later, I tendered my resignation and started attending a night school to get a license as a nursery worker so I could contribute in this field. During my school life, I saw that many my classmates who through their classes became interested in finding employment in foster homes were unable to get connected to foster homes due to the lack of information about these institutions, and eventually moved on to other avenues such as kindergartens and nursery schools. I thought that if we could break this point, we could connect interested students to foster homes and increase the staff in these institutions, so I started activities with my classmates to connect students to foster homes. At first, it started as a get-together activity where we volunteered to play once a month with the children in foster homes, and gradually, we started to arrange foster home tours and interact with staff, which gradually led to employment. One year later, we acquired NPO status and this year will be our 5th anniversary.

Oyama-san working as foster home staff

What was the most difficult thing and good thing about starting Chaibora?

The most difficult thing was to deal with an unconscious bias or unintentional barrier between us and the foster home staff. Coming from the Benesse and the business sector, I've been challenged by experienced foster home staff what a business person with no experience in the social sector could do to support. In the beginning, I cried every day. However, as I became a staff of the foster home myself, they became convinced that I was serious, and I was able to gain a great deal of understanding and trust, and from there the activities of Chaibora flourished.

Today, we support 1/3 of all foster homes nationwide, all by word of mouth. We received many words of appreciation from the foster homes, and it has turned into a virtuous cycle whereby foster homes that we have supported and gained their trust introduce other foster homes. It took us five years to get to this point, but I think it's good that we're now seeing track record in terms of increased staff recruitment.

What do you think is the biggest cause of the staff shortage in foster homes?

When it comes to securing staff, I think it all boils down to the fact that foster homes do not have a public relations budget and are overwhelmingly weak in their ability to communicate. Compared to areas such as childcare, nursing for the elderly, and disability care, the job category itself is not well known in the first place, and one can hardly find when foster home job postings on the Internet. On the other hand, when it comes to "retention" of staff, it's another issue, with the most people leaving due to relationship conflicts.

In response to this problem, Chaibora has established a free consultation desk and a forum for foster home staff to interact with each other, but we also recognize that this alone is not a definitive solution. In the harsh situation where one staff looks after up to 20 children of mixed gender, including children with developmental, intellectual, and behavioral disabilities, it is not possible for foster home staff to provide the care for the children that they envisioned, and as a result, they lack job satisfaction and leave. Therefore, I think it is important to focus on staff recruiting to ensure foster homes have sufficient staff.

Visiting lecture

How are you using the FIT donations?

We used the FIT donations mainly for four areas related to our online platform "Chabonavi" that connects foster homes and job seekers, which is our organization’s core business. The first is search engine optimization, something we have thus far not been able to do. The second is enhancement of our Instagram platform for targeting students. We were able to engage professionals to get things done we could not have done on our own, such as setting up the account and creating images, and this was really appreciated. The third is a new attempt to create interview videos of foster home staff and broadcast these. Casting foster home staff and have them talk about their jobs is a first in our industry that has largely been invisible and it is quite popular as it increases the comfort level of those who aspire working in the industry. Finally, we've added a feature to “Chabonavi” that allows you to view the location of facility on a map. I think the place of work is one of the very important factors when choosing a place of employment, so this is also very popular. Thank you very much for your generous support.

What kind of support can we provide?

I think the first step is to “correctly understand” this social issue. Every day, painful news of child abuse is broadcast, but what is not visible is the unimaginable hardships behind each incident. The thing that surprised me most after becoming a foster home was the astonishing affection children have towards their parents. Parents are unique to children even in the face of abuse, and their love is absolute. I am absolutely against child abuse, but I think that we need to think about what happened to parents that it got to that breaking point and whether there was anything that people around them could have done to avoid. If we don't do that and just look at each incident as a cruel parent committing an offense, we won't solve the bigger social issue.

At Chaibora, we hold free one-hour "online learning sessions" to let people know about the current state of foster homes and our activities. Listening to our stories can make a big difference in the world we see and the information we catch, and sometimes we hear people say, "I'll never forget it" or "My outlook on life has changed." I think "knowledge" is the first step to "solving social problems." The other day, we held a lunch session for several financial institutions. We hold them at major companies that everyone knows. If you are reading this article, please let me know if you are interested.

We also appreciate your support in the form of donations. Chaibora’s activities are supported by donations. You can make a donation from 1,000 yen per month, so please check this website if you are interested (

What is your future outlook?

In terms of securing staff for foster homes, in about two years “Chabonavi” is expected to cover 80% of all facilities nationwide. The next stage is to work on staff retention, and the yet next stage is to create a quality nurturing environment. Beyond that, we would like to provide outreach support to families that do not yet require children to be looked after in foster homes but need assistance.

Group photo at the campTop row, center: Oyama-san, [Others, clockwise from top left] Members of the FIT2023 Organising Committee: Yamamoto-san, Shima-san, Sato-san and Onishi-san

Chaibora, a Specified Non-profit Corporation