National / Crime & Legal

Japan to look at raising age limit for special child adoption


Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Friday that she will ask the Legislative Council to discuss revisions to the Civil Code so that older children can benefit from Japan’s special adoption system.

The proposal will be made to the advisory body on June 4, Kamikawa told a news conference after the day’s Cabinet meeting.

While stressing that the overhaul of the system — the first of its kind since the system’s establishment in 1988 — is “an urgent task,” she called on the council to set aside sufficient time for discussions.

Special adoptions are aimed at helping children who are, in principle, below six years old and are experiencing parental abuse or economic plight to grow up in a home-like environment rather than in an orphanage.

Specifically, the adopted children leave the family registers of their parents and enter those of their adoptive guardians. Under the ordinary adoption system, the child’s legal relationship with their real parents remains intact.

Following cases in which children older than six were not covered by the special adoption system, the minister plans to let the council examine the idea of raising the age limit, sources said.

Some experts have proposed lifting the ceiling to the elementary school graduation age of 12, or to 15 — the youngest age at which individual decisions are respected under the Civil Code.

The council is also expected to consider restricting the rights of real parents to cancel their consent to special adoptions before family court judgments are made, the sources said.

According to the welfare ministry, some 45,000 children aged up to 20 are currently being raised by people other than their biological parents nationwide.

An expert panel at the ministry aims to double by 2020 the number of special adoption cases from a total of 495 in 2016.