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Japan Adoptive Families

Waiting for Japan

I would like to have a place to talk about and share our Japan adoption stories and other things in our lives. I couldn’t find a forum or anything like it on the web that was a meeting spot for Japanese adoption, so I thought I’d create one here. Not sure if this is supposed to be more of a Q&A type thing or what. Really I just wanted to connect with other parents that were looking to adopt from Japan. A little about myself, The hubs and I are currently waiting to get on the wait list, the two agencies that we’ve have found that do Japanese adoption are both full at the moment. So, waiting to wait and looking to talk with others in the same boat.


I am interested to know more about the path you are taking. We adopted from Japan in 2007 but at that time we were living there. Then in order to adopt an infant from Japan you had to live in country or one parent had to be Japanese. What are the requirements now?

Posted by Mary Kay on Feb 05, 2016 at 3:34am

It’s hard to adopt from Japan.

First off, Japan is relatively prosperous, compared to other countries from which Americans adopt.  As a result, relatively few babies are placed for adoption because of poverty, the main reason for relinquishment in many countries.

Second, despite its forward-thinking attitudes in areas such as technology, Japan is actually very traditional in matters concerning family life.  It’s hard for many Japanese people to give up the notion of the importance of the “blood tie”, and to accept the fact that decent people, today, are willing to adopt children who are unrelated to them and give them all the privileges of a child born to them.  Many people facing life crises will still place a child in an orphanage, but not formally relinquish him/her, because they feel that anyone who adopts a child who is not biologically related must have ulterior motives, such as using the child for prostitution or slavery.  It seems preferable, to them, for the child to remain in the orphanage until he/she ages out, than to agree to allow the child to be adopted, especially internationally and interracially. 

Because of the difficulties, few American agencies have programs in Japan and, in 2014, the last year for which the U.S. State Department published data, only 20 American families adopted Japanese children, with some of those children being biological relatives.  One American agency of which I am aware is not currently taking new applications because it already has a long waiting list of families interested in the few children that are made available for international adoption.

Still, it is possible, though not easy, to adopt from Japan.  Americans of Japanese heritage may identify a child through contacts overseas, and then work with an American agency to do the necessary legal aspects of adoption and immigration.  And non-Japanese people usually do best when they are residing temporarily in Japan, where they can get to know orphanage directors and win the trust of them and the biological parents of children in their care, if they are still involved.  And an occasional non-Japanese family adopts from Japan without living in the country.

If an American is living in Japan, it may be possible for him/her to finalize an adoption through the Japanese court, using the “special adoption” process.  The “regular adoption” process does not meet U.S. requirements that the birthparents totally relinquish their parental rights before the adoption takes place and an immigrant visa will not be granted by the USCIS if a child is adopted through Japan’s regular adoption process.  In general, the special adoption process requires a family to remain in Japan for between six and eighteen months, living with the child, to complete the court requirements.  It also specifies that the child be under age six—or under age eight if he/she has been in the custody of that family since he/she was six.

If an American family does not live in Japan temporarily, it is possible to bring the child home under a decree of guardianship, for adoption in the U.S.  In this sort of adoption, the Japanese courts are not involved.  A U.S. adoption agency will work with an orphanage to identify an eligible child.  The biological mother of the child must sign a document, in her own language and English, indicating that she cannot take care of the child, that she is the sole parent of the child, and that she agrees to let the prospective adoptive parents bring the child to the U.S. for a full and final adoption.  The orphanage officially transfers custody of the child to the prospective parents, allowing them to travel to the U.S. and adopt the child there.

The U.S. State Department warns people adopting from Japan, whether they plan to finalize in Japan or in the U.S., that the child MUST meet all the requirements of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, in order to obtain a visa and come to the U.S.  As an example, if the child is not considered an “eligible orphan” under the law, he/she will not be granted a visa, even if he/she has been adopted overseas or has an orphanage’s permission to come to the U.S. for adoption.  Also, the prospective parents must follow the I-600 (non-Hague) USCIS process for applying to immigrate the child.


Posted by sak9645 on Feb 05, 2016 at 8:58am

everything sak9645 said, plus most of the babies adopted from japan are the children of immigrants and not fully japanese. so the babies might have korean or african heritage. much easier to just adopt from korea or africa if you don’t care about race/ethnicity

Posted by rn4kidz on Feb 06, 2016 at 1:32am

My husband and I are also considering Japan and waiting to see if wait lists open up.

Private adoption is still possible from Japan. However new laws require that even if you find a birth mother through your own contacts in Japan the adoption must go through a Japanese adoption agency as well as a U.S placement agency.

If you are open to a child over the age of 7 Vida adoptions in New York facilitates in the U.S for ISSJ. Recently they don’t seem to be placing younger kids outside of Japan, Although they have in the past. If you have Japanese ancestry you may have better luck with a potential age range than we did. They did like the fact that both my husband and I speak Japanese (he speaks it far better than i do wink having language skills and knowing the culture are the only reason my husband and I are looking into Japan for a possible adoption. It’s a very difficult country to adopt from.

Posted by AriaEli on Mar 04, 2016 at 1:25am

I agree with everyone wrote here.  But I hope things change in Japan so more children from Japan can have a dream to live and have own family.
Ms. Kanae Doi, she might be the one trying to make a change in Japan. And because of her they have been making change in Japan.  We might not need to lose our hope yet.

Posted by umkmydy on Jun 24, 2016 at 9:46pm

I agree with everyone wrote here.  But I hope things change in Japan so more children from Japan can have a dream to live and have own family.
Ms. Kanae Doi, she might be the one trying to make a change in Japan. And because of her they have been making change in Japan.  We might not need to lose our hope yet.

Posted by umkmydy on Jun 24, 2016 at 9:46pm

I agree with everyone wrote here.  But I hope things change in Japan so more children from Japan can have a dream to live and have own family.
Ms. Kanae Doi, she might be the one trying to make a change in Japan. And because of her they have been making change in Japan.  We might not need to lose our hope yet.

Posted by umkmydy on Jun 24, 2016 at 9:46pm

My only concern about the article you cite is that it references the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, rather than the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

The U.S. chose not to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, when it was developed, because it put impermanent foster care ahead of international adoption, when it prioritized solutions for the problem of children without families.  In general, the U.N., and especially Unicef, have emphasized the importance of keeping a child in his/her birth country, even if he/she is moved from one foster home to another to another, without ever finding a permanent loving family.

The Hague Convention, on the other hand, while sharing the concern over children living in institutions, supports permanence as a high priority.  And while it agrees with the U.N. Convention that a child should remain in his/her own community or country, if at all possible, it supports the premise that, when a child can’t find a permanent, loving family in his/her own birth country, international adoption is preferable to a life of impermanence, living with foster families who are paid to provide care, and who may decide at a moment’s notice that they do not wish to care for a particular child, or even any child, any longer.

The U.S. was often criticized for not ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, at a time when most other developed countries did so.  But it based its perception on research into child health and wellbeing, and on the findings of physicians and social workers who had worked with foster and adopted children for many years, and seen the damage done by impermanence, even in foster homes that were much better funded and supervised than in some countries.  So when the Hague Convention was developed, the U.S. was at the forefront of development efforts.

Many nations in Africa and elsewhere believe that the U.S. and European countries are practicing cultural genocide by taking children out of their birth countries and raising them elsewhere.  As a result, they are often vocal supporters of the U.N. Convention and the implementation of alternatives to institutionalization, such as foster homes, in their own countries.  The problem is that, very often, these countries simply do not have the resources to develop and manage a high quality foster care system.  And some of these countries are afflicted, on a fairly regular basis, by natural disasters and civil strife that uproot foster families, as well as biological families.

While the ideal situation for Japan, or any other country, should be one in which every child has a permanent, loving family in his/her own homeland, we know that it’s not possible in the real world.  What we should be pushing for is for Japan to follow the lead of other Asian countries, like South Korea and China, that have accepted the importance of encouraging both permanent, adoptive domestic homes for children, AND, where such homes don’t fully meet the needs, the importance of encouraging a well regulated international adoption system.

South Korea, for example, which has placed children with Americans since the 1950s, has begun developing financial and other incentives for Koreans within Korea to get rid of notions of the “blood tie”, and to begin adopting domestically.  Between the increasing prosperity of the country and efforts to modernize people’s thinking and behavior with regard to adoption, the number of children needing international adoption has dropped sharply.  But there are still children for whom international adoption is the next best solution, and Korea runs, arguably, one of the cleanest, least corrupt international adoption programs in the world.  It has also developed one of the world’s best programs of health services for children needing parents. 

China used to have a huge problem with abandoned babies, partly because of poverty and the one-child policy (where corrupt officials often punished people for having over-quota children with extremely onerous fines, loss of jobs and apartments, and even forced abortion and sterilization).  In recent years, however, increased prosperity and the phasing out of the one-child policy, as well as more enlightened attitudes about adoption, have reduced the need for international adoption to a point where the wait for a healthy infant could be up to ten years.  However, China has not had as much success in promoting the domestic adoption of older children and children with special needs, and has now built a very strong program for getting these children adopted internationally.

Both the Korean program and the Chinese program are consistent with Hague principles, though South Korea has signed, but not yet ratified the Hague.  I would like to see Japan learn from these and other countries that have implemented Hague compliant systems.  I feel that such systems would be best for children, and would protect birthparents and adoptive families.  But I worry that advocates of keeping children in their own country at almost any cost will prevail in Japan, which already has tendencies in this direction.  If this route is taken, then I believe that too many children will continue to live in limbo—just moved from an orphanage to foster care, but with little hope of finding permanence.


Posted by sak9645 on Jun 24, 2016 at 11:05pm

Hello, we utilized VIDA in NY and Agency to Rescue Children in Chiba, Japan to bring our 2 sons home. We were open to children with special needs. We brought our 12yo home in 2005 at 6 months old and our 10yo home in 2008, at 16 months old. Both had cleft palate.

When we adopted, we were told that adoptive parents had to have a “demonstratable” connection to Japan. I had lived in Japan and spoke the language so that was good. It also helped that we were open to a child of mixed race and/or special needs.

It was also explained to me that there were few children available to be adopted because abortion is much more common in Japan than in the US.

Good luck!

Posted by Stephenie on Sep 21, 2017 at 4:30pm

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