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Nagoya group home helps troubled youths build a better path to self-reliance

Chunichi Shimbun

A nonprofit organization in Nagoya is running a self-reliance assistance home for young delinquents with no place to return to after they leave juvenile correctional facilities.

Operated by the Saihikouboushi Support Center Aichi (juvenile recidivism prevention support center Aichi), the facility, 4S Home, provides support for youths so they can be independent, and helps when they face issues at work or with friends, offering them a safe haven.

The 4S home was opened three years ago and has so far helped 21 youths become self-reliant. One of them is a 20-year-old man who entered the group home in June 2016.

He was arrested at the age of 17 for driving recklessly in a group and was sent to a juvenile correctional center. He was released a year later, and came to the group home because his mother was ill and he needed to keep some distance from delinquent friends.

When the young man first came to 4S Home, he set goals with a staff member, including getting a stable job and saving money so he could become independent, and getting a driver’s license.

However, six months later he stopped going to work without giving notice and holed up in his room. He said he “was completely tired,” as he had difficulties finding a suitable job and kept failing the test at the driving school. He lost confidence and locked himself up in his room for about a month. It was then that an old friend tried to tempt him back to his old life, saying: “You don’t belong in a place like that. It’s better to live in the underside of society.”

He wavered, but decided to stay because of the relationship he had built with a staff member who came to talk to him in his room every day.

The staff member gave him advice, saying: “Why don’t you choose one thing to focus on first, either your work or getting a driver’s license? If you want to quit your job, I can go with you to the company.”

Soon after, the troubled teen found the detailed plan he had created to accomplish his goals when he left the correctional center.

It reminded him of the determination he’d felt to “start afresh” when he first arrived at 4S Home. He asked himself, “Are you going to trample on the feelings of the people who helped you and return to your evil ways?”

Then he thought of his mother, who cried whenever she visited him at the correctional center, and how she must have felt when she entrusted the group home with his rehabilitation.

Last July he finally got his driver’s license and left the group home, where he had spent a year.

He is now living on his own while working at a job that he secured through a recommendation.

“I owe what I am to the group home and staff members,” he said.

“The youths who just left juvenile correctional centers are at the starting line toward rehabilitation. We want the group home to serve as a base for them to think about their future path while respecting their individual intentions and hopes,” said Asato Takasaka, head of the NPO.

According to the 2017 White Paper on Crime, the recidivism rate for minors who had previously been arrested or given correctional guidance is on the rise, marking 37.1 percent in 2016, up 7 percentage points from a decade earlier.

The rate of juvenile delinquents being sent back to correctional facilities or prisons within two years after release is now 12.4 percent, and 22.4 percent within five years after release, according to the report.

Having a stable job and relationships with others are vital to prevent juvenile repeat offenses, but many often stumble on their path toward rehabilitation.

NPOs and social welfare corporations registered with a probation office operate self-reliance support homes to provide temporary housing — about six months in general — for youths who have just been released from juvenile correctional centers or prisons, until they become self-reliant. There are currently 375 organizations registered nationwide.

The types of facilities differ depending on the organization that is running them. At 4S Home 11 residents stay in individual furnished apartments, and staff visit them every day to give advice on their work and other issues.

“It is not enough to simply provide them with a place to live,” an official at the Nagoya Probation Office said. “The important thing is whether they can build a relationship with staff within which they can talk honestly when they are facing an issue.”

Some of the troubled youths were abused or abandoned by their parents and were sent to live in children’s homes, where they began exhibiting problematic behavior.

They are often shunted in and out of different facilities until they eventually end up in a group home.

“They need adults who can be strict with them so they can be rehabilitated and become independent,” said Norifumi Senga, a lecturer at Nagoya University who provides psychotherapy to juvenile delinquents.

“Building a relationship with trouble youths while supporting them by listening to what they want and what they are really thinking about becomes a matter of course. Such strong relationships have a greater power than strict regulations and penalties to help them start over again,” Senga said.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Jan. 19.