Happy Yurikago Project

An illustration from The Happy Yurikago Project

Promoting Special Adoption Programs for Children

There are roughly 45,000 children in Japan who, for whatever reason, cannot be raised by their biological parents. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) declares that all children “should grow up in a family environment.” The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2009, also state that “alternative care for young children, especially those under the age of 3 years, should be provided in family-based settings.” In Japan today, however, roughly 85% of children who require protective care live in nurseries or childcare institutions, with only 15% living with foster families. This is far lower than in other economically developed countries, and highlights the need for Japan to promote special adoption and foster care.

Furthermore, it is desirable that children who will not be able to live with their biological parents in the future grow up with adoptive families. In Japan, this takes place through a system called “special adoption,” whereby public child guidance centers or private-sector organizations arrange for the permanent placement of an infant with an adoptive family. Japan trails other countries in this area as well, with only approximately 500 children placed with families through special adoption each year, compared with more than 50,000 in the United States and more than 4,500 in the United Kingdom.

Concept of Permanency

The UN’s Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children state that when a child cannot be raised by their biological parents, the most desirable solution is for them to be raised by another blood relative or someone with a very close relationship to the family, and if that is not possible, to be placed in an adoptive home. Foster care is a form of alternative care that is generally considered a temporary measure while a permanent solution is being sought. Special adoption gives the child relationships that will continue into their adulthood, and this is what is meant by “permanency.”

Revision of the Child Welfare Act

The Japanese government passed a partial revision of the Child Welfare Act in June 2016, and one of the features of the revision is to promote the raising of children in home environments through special adoption and foster care. The revision also clarifies the roles and duties of the national government and local governments, and stipulates that municipalities establish “Comprehensive Support Centers for Families with Children that provide seamless support from pregnancy to the child-rearing period.”

The desirability of children being raised by their biological parents cannot be overstated, but there are parents all around the world who are unable to care for their children. The Happy Yurikago Project (yurikago is the Japanese word for “cradle”) aims to create a society in which children, who for whatever reason cannot be cared for by their biological parents, can be raised in a loving family environment from as early an age as possible.

Basic Principles of the Happy Yurikago Project

  • In our society, adoption is the most urgent issue to work on in the area of children’s welfare.
  • Children whose biological parents are unable to care for them should be raised in a loving family environment via special adoption programs from as early an age as possible.

Goals of the Happy Yurikago Project

  • Promote a better understanding and awareness of special adoption programs for children, and the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory structure.
  • Further promote special adoption programs for children to enable as many babies and children as possible to live in a warm family setting.

Activities of the Happy Yurikago Project

Public Awareness

The Nippon Foundation has designated April 4 as Adopted Children’s Day, and holds events to promote awareness of special adoption and the situation regarding protective care in Japan. Information is also provided via The Nippon Foundation’s and the Happy Yurikago Project’s websites and Facebook pages, and seminars and symposiums are held throughout the year.

Research, Publications, and Policy Proposals

The Nippon Foundation carries out surveys to identify issues and examine the situation regarding special adoption and foster care in Japan, and uses that information to propose improvements to Japan’s legal framework.


The Nippon Foundation is holding seminars across Japan to train facilitators for the Fostering Changes Programme, a program developed in England to train foster parents in how to build better relationships with foster children.


The Nippon Foundation coordinates its activities with those of organizations including the Public-Private Forum to Promote Family Environments for Children and a national network of consultation centers for women who become pregnant.

Group photo following the launch ceremony for the Public-Private Forum to Promote Family Environments for Children

Financial Support

The Nippon Foundation provides financial support to private-sector organizations to promote awareness and the use of special adoption and foster care, with the aim of implementing model projects.