February is always a meaningful time for my little family, as it was the month – 11 years ago – when I brought my daughter home from Kazakhstan. I went to court on Jan. 25; all the papers were finalized on Feb. 10 and on Feb. 17, we flew back to the United States. She became an American citizen at around 3 p.m. when the wheels of the jet touched down on the tarmac at Dulles Airport.
She’s fortunate to have been from Central Asia. Had she been from Japan, she would be languishing in an institution. I recently learned how backward – almost non-existent – adoption and foster care is in Japan and how a few brave souls are trying to change that.
First, the situation: This Reuters piece tells of how 85 percent of some 40,000 orphans in Japan are not with families but institutionalized. Oliver Twist it may not be, but it can’t be beneficial to warehouse these children. In 2016, Japan passed a law guaranteeing children a right to live with a family; a needed first step but hardly enough to make a dent in what is a deplorable situation.
Japan has the highest ratio among the rich nations of institutionalized orphans. The Reuters piece said there were only about 10,000 foster families in the entire country and in the year 2015, there were only 544 adoptions. Japan is a country in which ancestry and blood ties among family are everything and the idea of grafting a kid into your family tree through adoption is utterly foreign to most of them.
The Japan Times has covered this phenomenon quite a bit, including this story on the few parents who do foster care in Japan and how tough it is. Many of these orphans aren’t placed into homes until they’re older by which time they’re dealing with attachment disorders or worse. (Didn’t these folks learn from the awful problems suffered by Russian adoptees who’ve had all sorts of problems because they spent their formative years in orphanages?) The Times said about 400 children a year are adopted in Japan, compared with Great Britain, which has half Japan’s population but whose residents take on 5,000 kids per year.
It ran another piece about Internet Akachan Post, which literally means “internet baby mailbox,” an online adoption service that seeks to bring about 3,000 adoptions a year; a drop in the bucket compared with other countries but six times the current Japanese rate.
I was intrigued about how some of the more creative Japanese efforts to dramatically increase adoptions and foster care are found outside of Tokyo. The online service is based in Osaka. A crisis pregnancy center described here is in Nagoya.
That effort was founded by American Cynthia Ruble, once an ad executive in Atlanta who gave it all up to become an overseas missionary. Divorced with no children, she moved to Japan to teach English until she realized that pregnant, unwed women in Japan often had nowhere to go. She started a nonprofit, Life Hope Network, to help these women, a number of whom actually moved in with her during their pregnancies. In the process, she adopted a boy with Down Syndrome. I included a photo atop this blog post of her with her son, Micah. She’d be a perfect fit for this blog, as she’s a single Christian woman who adopted a child who’d never have a home were it not for her. Do read the above link plus this one that also tells about her and also this very recent story that offers an update. Cynthia is now 55. Her son is 10.
And be sure to check out this blog by a Canadian expatriate, Melodie Cook, now living in Niigata Prefecture with her family. She has started a Yahoo group for parents who’ve adopted Japanese kids.
International adoptions from other countries continue even now and sites like Rainbowkids.com (https://www.rainbowkids.com/) are still doing an amazing job alerting people of all the latest trends plus offering a photo gallery of available kids. There’s a lot more going on the internet since I flew to Kazakhstan on New Year’s Eve as 2007 was arriving.
I found the following essay somewhere – can’t remember where – from a single mom who elected to stay within U.S. borders and forego working with an agency:
There are several ways to adopt domestically. You will have to have a homestudy and a booklet for showing to birth moms first (unless you’re interested in foster child adoption – that’s a different process that I don’t know much about).
Once I had those (and there are examples of them on the web… but mostly they were common sense things – like what would you want to know if you were shopping for a mother for your child), it was a matter of finding a baby. You don’t have to sign up with an agency, you can. I didn’t because then I was ‘stuck’ waiting for a baby to come to me that way. You can use an attorney but don’t have to. I did use one in the beginning but that’s pretty expensive… however not so much so that you can’t also look on your own. The attorney I used only charged me for what she did – she didn’t charge me a fee that locked me in with her. There may be some that do that…
If you’re open to race and to some other potential issues (such as drug addiction), you may also want to look for an AAAA (American Academy of Adoption Attorneys) attorney in your area. That, ultimately, was how I found my daughter. A friend who is an AAAA attorney is who found my daughter for me from emails that are sent to the organization’s members. There’s a directory of these attorneys here. If you’re in Oregon or Washington, I could recommend some.
Believe it or not it only took 6 months to get my daughter after my homestudy was done. I did work on it very hard, though. My daughter is bi-racial and was born drug addicted. I talked to a few folks prior to my accepting her since the drug addiction was something that really scared me. Now that she’s 21 months, she’s obviously really smart and totally on or exceeding all developmental marks. She was diagnosed with seizure disorder but the doctors cannot tell me if that has anything at all to do with the drug addiction. It took three months of medication to get her free of drugs. I say all this just to let you know that this is an avenue that is also not as scary as you may think (I thought it was).
My hurdles were the adoptions that started but didn’t finish. Those were emotionally tough…The worst hurdle was that I did get taken for a LOT of money by an accredited adoption agency. From that I learned that I would pay no money until I had information on the birth mother andshe was going to go with me. I paid my money before I had the birth mom info and I never got that. An attorney friend of mine said it’s doubtful there ever was a birth mother since I didn’t get any of that info. So, beware that not all agencies are ethical even in the US.
Back to process. Once you have a match with a baby, you need to have an attorney to finalize the adoption. The state you are adopting from has a lot to do with how this works. Some states, like Florida and Oregon, are very adoption friendly whereas others may not be as much. So, that process is determined by the state. It did take me a year to finalize the adoption of my daughter but that was due to a bad lawyer in Florida… not the process. During that time, she was mine and nobody could take her away. Her relinquishment had been signed and the birth parents had no rights to her unless they’d been able to show coercion.
So…there’s a lot of stories out there. Adoption is very possible. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Take it.