National

Panel mulls allowing children to stay in foster care until 20

Kyodo

A government panel on Wednesday began discussing measures to allow orphaned and neglected children to stay in foster care until they are 20 years old, the legal age of adulthood in Japan, instead of the current 18 years old.

The aim is to better help them live independent lives after leaving sponsored care.

A person under 18 years old is defined as a “child” under the Child Welfare Law in and can remain in such facility or live with foster parents, but will remain a “minor” until he or she reaches 20 under the Civil Code. That creates a difficult situation for such wards as a parents consent is needed to secure housing and other necessities like mobile phones as minors cannot sign contracts.

The age limit for staying in foster care can be extended to 20 years old in some cases. But such children usually leave after they graduate from high school.

Based on the outcome of the panel discussions, which are scheduled to run to the end of the year, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will seek to submit bills to revise related legislation during the regular Diet session next year.

Critics say the current system is flawed because the support measures end at a certain age. At the meeting Wednesday, one panel member called for the extension of assistance to children beyond the age of 20.

Japan lowered the voting age to 18 from 20 earlier this year, triggering a debate on whether the definition of a minor under the Civil Code should be changed.

But another panel member said the move should not influence stipulations in the Child Welfare Law, which is aimed at supporting children.