National / Social Issues

Lack of parental consent preventing hundreds of orphans from being adopted, survey finds

Kyodo

Nearly 300 children in the nation’s orphanages over the past two years could not be put up for adoption because consent from their biological parents could not be obtained, a welfare ministry survey showed Thursday.

Under civil law, consent is required by the “special adoption” guidelines used to grant a child the same legal rights as the adopting parents’ biological children under the national family registry system.

The ministry plans to consider measures that make it easier to deal with consent problems, whether the biological parents are reluctant to grant approval or whether they cannot be found, ministry officials said.

The survey covered 209 child consultation centers in fiscal 2014 and 2015 and was conducted last October by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. It covered number of adoption cases and children who spent extended time in foster homes or orphanages and saw little prospect of their parents returning.

There were 140 children in fiscal 2014 and 148 in fiscal 2015 that mediators thought were good candidates for adoption.

According to the survey, a total of 610 children were adopted during the two-year period.

Among cases where children couldn’t be put up for adoption, 68 percent of the consultation centers said they were unable to obtain consent from their biological parents.

Some parents said they did not want to give their children up for adoption, even though they admitted they could not raise them. Others said they were planning to reclaim them sometime in the future. Others simply couldn’t be contacted.

Children must be under 6 to be eligible for the special adoption program, and 16 percent were not old enough.

For about 12 percent who were eligible, new propspective parents could not be found.

There is clause in Japan’s law that says parental approval is unnecessary if parents do not express an intention to reunite with their children, or face abusive situations where their safety is in significant jeopardy, an expert on a ministry panel formed to address the issue said.

But some child consultation officials say it is still difficult to determine which cases can be addressed by this clause.

Several other countries have laws that address such situations.

In Germany, for example, there is a law that deems parental consent unnecessary if local authorities see no progress in a parent trying to maintain contact with their child or cannot find a parent for three months, said professor Yukiko Takahashi of Teikyo University.

“In Japan, however, there are no legal rules to deal with such parents, and the requirement to obtain their consent in adopting children is an obstacle,” she said.

Takahashi said there is need to compile more comprehensive guidelines and draw up a new law to address the issue.

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