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Project of Basic research on Youth Social Work 
"The Study of Social Work Targeting Young People: The Development of Agents Who Confront “Normal” Social Order"

Writer: YAMAMOTO, Kohei (College of Social Sciences, Professor)   terms: 2015 6

Social work that has doubts about “normal” social order

Japan’s “Children and young people vision: aiming at a society that supports the growth of children and young people, and is inclusive of each child and young person” (July, 2010 resolution of the Headquarters for the Promotion of Development and Support for Children and Young People) emphasised five points in drawing up policy. These were: ① not treating children and young people as objects of training, but rather respecting them as important subjects who construct society; ② supporting development in local networks centred on children and young people that include experts; ③ along with encouraging the growth and development of all children and young people, supporting children and young people facing difficulties so that they are able to overcome the circumstances in which they have been placed; ④ along with supporting children and young people in their lives right now, providing support so that they will be able to live better in the future; ⑤ [recognizing that] the role of adults surrounding children and young people is very important, and seeking to actively implement a better social structure from the adults’ side as well. These five points form a perspective that arose during the processes worsening poverty and social exclusion of children and young people.

Our project examines the movements, policies, philosophies and methodologies of social work confronting this increasing poverty and social exclusion of young people. The study of social work that targets young people have to begin by questioning the obsession ideas which holds that young people must adapt to this society.

Young people are freed from the restraints of their parents and take on the task of their own development while searching for the path they ought to take. But have parents of young people, who are themselves forced into restricted ways of life in the midst of “competition”, perhaps lost the ability to show them the path they ought to take, and to save their children from “competition” and discrimination. Under these circumstances, parents and children together face a crisis of instable isolation. Iwata Masami points out the instability of our country’s transition period: “In Japan, it is not uncommon for parents, without getting angry or upset, to allow [their children to be] parasites; parents support their child’s transition into an unstable adult, and parents hide this instability.”

Youth social work have to become a field that examines how young men and women who are deprived of opportunities and the capability to live as citizens by the various structural paradoxes of capitalist society. Along with focusing on restoring these lost opportunities and capabilities, it must be constructed as a practical approach that makes it possible for them to obtain the ability to create new lives. It has not to be a discipline whose purpose is to investigate techniques for initiating young people into methods of adapting to society as it currently exists.

Youth social work and a cooperative relationship between practitioners, young people, and local residents

Young people, through actively participating in groups and communities, sharing a sense of history with others, developing a sense of camaraderie, exchanging information, and independently blazing new trails, search for an approach to take in facing society. We have to analyse these activities from several perspectives. This analysis must of course pursue a cooperative relationship between practitioners, young people, and local residents, and is only possible through the equal participation of “those supported” and “supporters” who build these connections.

While undertaking to live alongside young people who have some kind of social problem, young practitioners engaged in the practice of youth social work are themselves living through their own young adulthood. Dealing with “young people” as “targets” only in places where social work is practiced will presumably develop together with local residents difficult. At very least it should be asked how we might accomplish the mission surrounding the pursuit of relationships between these young people and practitioners and the local communities in which they are living.

Why leave home?

We have conducted investigations concerning the poverty of children and young people in South Korea and Japan. Children and young people’s states of poverty include not only economical poverty but also overall poverty concerning factors such as social systems and relationships, and experiencing the realities of “child abuse”, “bullying”, and “leaving home”. Among these, in addressing young people’s states of poverty we have focused on “leaving home” particularly. We have done so because within the process leading to the social exclusion of young people our focus has been on the “acts” of young people themselves. By scrutinising “leaving home as an act”, we believe it is possible to discern the voices of children in states of poverty that until now have gone unheard. We aim to provide a new perspective in order to pursue the question of why these young people come to undertake the act of “leaving home”, and the various hopes and needs included in this act.

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