The Justice Ministry has plans to raise the age ceiling on the special child adoption system. Currently, special adoptions are only given to children under the age of 6. A new age of possibly 15 or 17 is being considered. They realize it may be difficult to place an older child with a new family. The Ministry wants to see a successful future for the children, many of whom are in orphanages or foster care homes that are less than ideal because of economic reasons.
So what is a special adoption? A special adoption is when an adopted child is not listed as adopted on the family registry but as a natural child of the adoptive parents. Until now, the opportunity has only been made available to children under 6. In 2016, less than 600 special adoptions took place. The government is hoping to raise that total to 1,000 over the next five years.
Special adoptions have been in effect since 1988 to provide children with stable, permanent homes. The process includes a six-month waiting period, and they must be approved in family court. Japan has always prioritized the role of biological parents parenting their own children, so it has been increasingly difficult to get birth parents to agree to special adoption. If the proposed changes are implemented, this would be the first major change in adoption legislation since 1988.
A panel was set up in July and will issue its report early next year. The proposal is made to the Legislative Council. The government then decides whether to make the revisions requested. About 45,000 children are in need of permanent families. Of those, 30,000 are over the age of 6 and live in foster care or in orphanages. Also on the table are laws to limit the birth parents from canceling adoptions they agreed to in family court.