70% of Children are “Satisfied with Themselves”The Nippon Foundation survey on adoption shows adoptive parents active as well

In adoptive families, parents are actively involved with their children and 70% of children are satisfied with themselves, which is higher than the national average for families overall. This was one of the findings of a survey conducted by The Nippon Foundation in cooperation with two NGOs involved in adoption* as part of its efforts to promote special adoption, and released on its website (full report in Japanese only) on December 9 to coincide with the Diet’s adoption of the Act Concerning the Protection of Children Placed for Adoption by Private-Sector Adoption Agencies.

The Nippon Foundation’s Survey of Adoptive Families was sent to 263 adoptive families in August 2016, and 170 families returned completed surveys, consisting of 168 surveys from adoptive parents and 89 from adopted children who were at least 10 years old. Surveys of adoptive families face difficulties in ascertaining whether the replies are truthful and in contacting adoptive families after the adoption has been completed, and this was the first time in 31 years that a survey has examined the professional lives of adoptive parents and the daily lives of adopted children. This was also the first survey on adoption in which adopted children were asked to submit replies directly.

The survey of adoptive parents showed that the largest number of children, at 38.4% of the total, were less than one year old when they began being cared for by their adoptive parents, followed by one year old at 26.2% and two years old at 12.8%, with an average of 1.49 years old. In terms of current age, the largest number of children are now 13 and the average age is 9.4, and 80.1% of adopted children have already been told that they are adopted. With regard to mental and physical condition, 85.7% of the children do not have a disability, while 14.3% have been diagnosed by a doctor as having a mental or physical disability.

Adoptive families score higher in educational environment

When asked if they read to their children when they were young, 68.5% of adoptive parents replied “Yes” and 26.2% replied “Sometimes” (the other replies being “Occasionally” and “Never”), which combined is more than 20 percentage points higher than the total of approximately 70% from a similar nationwide survey of academic skills and habits of all children carried out by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2013.

With regard to their children’s studies, the largest group, at 63.0%, replied “No particular problems,” followed by “Somewhat behind” at 18.1% and “Excelling” at 17.3%, and in terms of school attendance, 97.6% of the children “Attend school regularly.” These replies were higher for both questions than in corresponding replies to a survey of children in childcare facilities carried out by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2013 (Figure 1).

Figure
Figure 1: Comparison with Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Survey (2013)

Adopted children show higher levels of self-approval

In the survey of adopted children, in reply to the question “Are you satisfied with yourself?” roughly 70% replied affirmatively, with 25.8% replying “Yes” and 44.9% replying “Mostly yes.” This compares with a combined 46.5% with similar levels of self-approval reported in a general survey carried out by the Cabinet Office in 2011 (Figure 2). The survey showed that in general, adoptive families raise children in a favorable environment economically, psychologically, and in terms of daily life, suggesting that a stable living environment leads to higher levels of self-approval in children.

Figure
Figure 2: Comparison with Cabinet Office Survey (2011)

There are more than 40,000 children in Japan who cannot be raised by their biological parents, but in 2015 there were only 544 special adoptions in which children were placed with a permanent family (according to the Annual Report of Judicial Statistics), an extremely low level relative to the United States and Europe.

This is why the government stipulated consultation for parents wishing to adopt as a responsibility of local governments in the revisions to the Child Welfare Act announced in June, to address disparities that have existed to date. In addition, the Protection of Children Placed for Adoption by Private-Sector Adoption Agencies passed on December 9 changed adoption to an approval-based structure from the previous notification-based structure, with the aim of improving the quality of adoption.

Similar surveys have been carried out in the past, the most recent major surveys having been made in 1981 and 1984. The Nippon Foundation also plans to carry out a survey in the future of adoptive families in which the adopted children are aged 15 or older.

  • In Japan, “adoption” generally refers to the transfer of family registry for an adult, most commonly for the purpose of passing on a family business. The adoption of an infant, entered into the family registry with the same status as a biological child, is referred to as “special adoption.” In this article, the two terms are used interchangeably to refer to special adoption.

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