How To Adopt In Japan: Adoptive Parents Share Their Stories

Confessions And Confusions: Where, How Long, And How Much?

By Melodie Cook
October 8, 2017

In this month’s column, we ask several parents who have adopted their children in Japan about where they reached out to, how long it took, and how much it cost.

Recently, I’ve been in contact with some couples who have decided that they want to adopt in Japan, but are not sure where to go. I asked some members of my Facebook group to share a little information to help those thinking of adopting. However, before getting into that, I feel I need to tell you that adoption in Japan is still rare. Currently, there are only about 400-500 adoptions per year across the country, although the government is taking measures to increase that number to 3,000.

Questions to ask yourself before adopting might include the following:

  • What agencies are available?
  • How long do I want to wait for a child to be matched to my family?
  • How old a child do I want?
  • How much am I willing to pay for the adoption process?

Six people answered my survey and I’ve summarized their answers briefly below. Keep in mind that this article is based on the responses of individuals who have been through the process. 

Child Guidance Center (Local Government)

Two people said that their children were matched to them through their local Child Guidance Centre. While one person said their wait for a 2-year-old child was one year, the other said that she waited three years for her 3-year-old son. The adoption process was completely free and in the case of the second parent, she was reimbursed for her son’s monthly expenses (treated as a foster parent) for the first year he lived with her family until the adoption was finalized. The first parent advises that prospective parents keep in touch with the Center “to make sure they haven’t forgotten about you.” The second recommends patience, going to meetings (to be seen), reading a lot of books, and joining any grassroots organizations nearby, should they exist to network with other adoptive, or, more likely, foster parents.

Faith-based hospitals/agencies

One parent said she adopted through a Catholic hospital and the other through a Christian adoption agency. The former adopted a newborn and waited three months after applying for a child. The latter received a week-old baby the first time, and was actually contacted by the agency the second time “because they knew we were thinking about it,” and thus there was no wait for the second baby. There were costs involved, however. The parent said she paid “¥700,000 including the birth mother’s hospital bill.” However, the second said that she couldn’t remember how much she paid: “just expenses for the baby and travel and social worker report. No legal fees. Not at all expensive.” Both parents recommended that those thinking about adoption go for it and not to worry “that the paperwork carries on and the adoption won’t be legally finalized until sometime after the child has become part of your family.”

International Family Services (IFS)

One parent adopted her son a week before his first birthday from IFS (which no longer exists) but said that everything about her adoption was “exceptional” in that she waited only one week after applying for him, yet the adoption took four years to finalize because although the birth parents were divorced, at times they wanted to reclaim the child, (in the birth mother’s case, only for the family registry – she didn’t want to raise the child and would have institutionalized him). The hospital costs worked out to about $35,000. She recommends that adoptive parents take good care of themselves and pay attention to signals for how to proceed with their children.

Private adoption

The last parent, who adopted two children at the same time (she met them when they were six and seven, respectively), said that “no agency” was used, but the matching process took five years. She paid “about ¥800,000” for the adoption process and recommends to those considering adoption to “Be patient. There will be lots of obstacles, but don’t give up,” adding that “adoption will change your life!”

In summary, you may have to wait longer to be matched with a child from a public non-profit rather than a private religious or for-profit agency, but you might have to pay more money. You may also be more likely to get a baby from a private agency or other private arrangements than from a government institution, which deals largely with orphanages where fostering is more common than adoption because parents place children in them in order not to break blood ties or to keep their biological children on the family register.

In my case, as I have written before, we wanted an older child because I was the full-time working breadwinner, and couldn’t nurse a baby at home. While I love my son to bits, I sometimes wish we had adopted him earlier, so that we could have formed a closer bond and that he would have been using English sooner. If your Japanese is not up to snuff, I’d recommend trying for a newborn, so that you will be able to communicate!

Something to watch out for

Recently, someone joined my Facebook adoption/fostering group and said that a child was available for adoption. Many of the group members hopes were raised and they jumped on this “opportunity,” but a few others soon realized that the person making the offer was from outside of Japan and had ill intentions. As the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If you want to adopt a child in Japan, please go through reputable and certified channels.

For more information on adoption in Japan, see this, this and this article, as well as this book.

Confessions & Confusions” is Melodie Cook’s regular column on adoption and fostering in Japan. Here, she answers questions from potential adoptive or foster parents, those who have already been through the system or any parents who just need to let off some steam. Got a question? Leave a comment or send us an email at


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