This chapter lays out the most important value that underpins the alternative care system in Japan, the family-bond between child and ‘parent’. After introducing the theoretical construct of Parson’s ‘values’, this chapter outlines the composition of the family-bond, which is composed of legal, blood, and practice bonds, as well as familial love and expectations of future support. The family-bond is underpinned by a sense of belonging to a place.

This chapter next looks at the three key characteristics of the family-bond. The first is that a child can only have a one-family bond. Forming a new family-bond weakens the existing (or potential) family-bond, and the formation of a new family-bond cuts the existing family-bond. The second is that removing a child from their parents risks destroying the existing family-bond. The final characteristic is that children are understood as being unable to form a family-bond after a certain age.

The consequence of the discrete and singular nature of the family-bond is that where foster care is constructed as anything other than professional or semi-professional care in a family setting it is seen as a threat to the family-bond. Indeed, institutional care is often used precisely because it does not create a new family-bond.