Japan has updated its regulations for American citizens who are considering the adoption of a Japanese-born child. Adoption officials in Japan recently informed the U.S. State Department that any adoption facilitated between the countries will now require authorization by a Japanese court.
Such a court must grant an authorization for a “special adoption.” Getting past this hurdle means that American couples or an individual will be required to complete a number of difficult steps before they can adopt.
Furthermore, the Japanese government has issued new guidelines for the definition of what makes a child an “orphan” by legal definition. First, the child must have no parents because of death, disappearance, abandonment or some other manner of separation.
Second, if a child does have a surviving parent, that parent must provide a statement in writing explaining why he or she can no longer claim guardianship of that child. But even if a parent provides such a “release statement,” the separation is not considered permanent until a formal adoption is finalized by legal parties both in Japan and the United States.
Another condition American couples or individuals must meet is the completion of a six-month period of “trial nurturing.” What this process entails is spelled out on Japan’s Ministry of Health and Labor website. This six-month nurturing evaluation period requires that American citizens live in Japan until complete.
Many American families are currently seeking an adoption in Japan, but are doing so through adoption agencies that may be working essentially outside the Japanese court system. The new rules on adoption no longer permit that. The Japanese government warns all prospective adopters must get the blessing of the court system.
The updated guidelines on Japanese adoption were issued in May of this year. Adoption of children under the age of six are rare between the U.S. and Japan with an average of 20 or fewer children adopted per year. Japan classifies 98% of all potential adoptees as “adults.”