National

Japan to expand age limit for special adoption system to cover children under 15

JIJI

The Justice Ministry plans to expand the special adoption system to cover children under 15 years old, compared with the current basic age limit of under 6, Jiji Press learned Saturday.

The revision is aimed at helping children lacking proper care due to abuse, poverty and other reasons, according to informed sources. It will be the first time for the special adoption system to be revised since its introduction in 1988.

With the revision, the special adoption system will be available to elementary and junior high school students.

The Justice Ministry is also considering allowing the special adoption of children aged between 15 and 17 under some additional conditions, the sources said.

The ministry aims to submit related legislation, including a bill to revise the Civil Code, during the ordinary Diet session due to start on Jan. 28, after receiving recommendations on the issue from the Legislative Council.

A subcommittee of the council has looked at several options for the adoption age limit and reached a conclusion that it is desirable to set the ceiling at under 15, as the Civil Code calls for respecting the will of people aged 15 or older.

The consent of children is not required under the current special adoption system, and the rule is expected to remain unchanged under the revised system.

Adoption under the special system terminates legal ties between adopted children and their biological parents.

The Legislative Council, at its meeting on Jan. 29, is slated to decide whether to support the exceptional adoption of children between 15 and 17, under the following conditions: that they agree to be adopted, have been living with those who would become their adoptive parents since before turning 15, and encountered circumstances that prevented their adoption filings by that age.

Under the existing system, adoption filings are submitted to family courts by those applying to become the adoptive parents. The prospective parents often feel mental stress if the birth parents do not agree to their children’s adoption.

To reduce their stress, the revised system would separate the court procedures for judging birth parents’ capacity to raise children from the matching of children with adoptive parents, the sources said.

The new system is also expected to allow the heads of child counseling centers to file for adoption.

Birth parents are currently allowed to retract their consent for adoption until a court ruling. But the planned system will give them only two weeks to withdraw consent, in a bid to help children and their new parents develop their relationships, the sources said.