Closure of an Adoption Agency in Tokyo

There has been media coverage since March 22 regarding the private adoption agency “Baby Life,” which had continued its operation without getting the license and closed in 2020.  

Since ISSJ has received inquiries from media and ex-clients of Baby Life, we comment our policy as below.

1. Intercountry adoption

In the postwar period when ISSJ was established, we arranged intercountry adoptions for children who couldn’t be raised in their families. Today, we place children to adoptive parents who live in Japan in principle. Such operation is conforming to the 1993 Hague Convention and Adoption Agency Law in Japan. For adoption between parents and a child of different nationalities, our requirement is that the adoptive parents can live in Japan continuously for at least three years from the time of their application in order to have enough time to receive the judgment of Japanese family court, and such judgment should be acknowledged by the court of their country of origin.

2. Children’s right to know their origins

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Japan ratified in 1994, provides that “ (the child shall have) the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents” in Article 7. We consider it is quite important that the adoptees’ right to know their origins of their birth family and access their own records is guaranteed while their personal history is told according to their growth and development. Japanese legal framework is insufficient in this respect; in addition, the policy and practices vary among private agencies as well as public child welfare organizations. In order to support adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents on this issue, ISSJ has started post-adoption services in 2020.

3. Adoption fee

Adoption services shouldn’t be the pursuit of a profit.

Based on this credo, private adoption agencies provide services and disclose the service fee. ISSJ is an accredited social welfare corporation but receives no subsidy from the government and municipality. Public subsidy has been made available to private adoption agencies that work on “Model Projects” since 2018, however, the fund doesn’t cover all the operational cost. On the other hand, there are things that private agencies are good at, for example, long-term service provision and adoption services across the nation, and each agency strives for providing flexible, quality services with various ideas and improvements.

4. Adoption by the agency without license

Licensed adoption agencies in Tokyo including ISSJ, have submitted a letter of request on February 17, 2020 to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government to express our view on Baby Life’s continuous operation without license.

Our concern is that fake information may be disseminated with a series of news reports, and adoption service by private agencies is stigmatized. It is relating to all of adoptive parents and adoptees who have used their services. We hope we will have more active discussion on children’s right to know their origins including the development of its legal framework.