In Japan, foster care system isn't well-established yet.
There are many people who have a strong desire to make a change in a child’s life or to contribute themselves to the society, but are ruled out in the social care services for children(*1) including the foster care system.
They are the people of LGBT (*2) in Japan.
How can we make it possible for these LGBTs to play a role in the foster care system in this country?
This simple question led us to found RFC (Rainbow Foster Care).
At present, there are many LGBTs who are fostering children in Europe and the United States.
LGBT foster parenting is seen more often than before in those areas.
Furthermore, there are some local-governments which positively carry out the recruitment of LGBT foster parents who are willing to take LGBT foster children (*3).
In Europe and the United States, LGBTs have already been recognized politically as important human resources for foster care and adoption.
RFC, taking the progress of LGBT fostering and adoption in foreign countries into account, will connect the people related to the social care service with the people of LGBT themselves and the supporters of LGBT, and will carry out various activities to create a society where LGBT will be recognized as important human resources for the social care services for children in this country.
We are dedicated to provide a nurturing family for all the children in need.
We want to give all the children happy homes!
To achieve this goal, RFC will continue to work to improve the social care services for children and tackle LGBT issues (*4).
(*1) Social care services for children; It is a term used in Japan which is equivalent to "out-of-home care". There are the
social care facilities, or the foster care systems.
(*2) LGBT; It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (including the gender identity disorder people).
(*3) LGBT foster children; An issue that the children who are LGBT themselves are kicked out from conservative foster families only because they are LGBT is becoming a social concern. In some local-governments, the recruitment of LGBT foster parents has started and the educational training are prepared to understand LGBT youth.
(*4) RFC will investigate the issues of LGBT youth living under the social care.
Making same-sex couples eligible as foster parents to protect child welfare
January 19, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
"Why not recruit same-sex couples as foster parents?" is the question many in social child welfare services are asking, as they face great numbers of children living without parents and same-sex couples who want to raise children but cannot have them biologically.
Yoko Segawa, 31, and Anri Suzuki, 27, residents of the Tokyo suburb of Higashikurume, became partners four years ago and wear wedding rings on their left hands. Segawa says that whenever she hears news of child abuse, she wishes she and her partner could help bring up children who cannot live with their parents.
Same-sex marriage is not recognized under Japanese law, and not being legally married, same-sex couples cannot adopt children. They can, however, take part in the foster care system. The criteria for becoming foster parents is set by each municipality based on the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's guidelines, and if that criteria allows for same-sex couples, they can become foster parents.
But in the real world, things are not so simple. In Tokyo, for example, a cohabiting common-law couple can take in foster children. This may sound like same-sex partners can also become foster parents, but that's not actually the case.
"The criteria assumes opposite-sex couples in common-law marriages," says Hiroshi Kurihara, who heads the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's childrearing section. "Based on conventional thinking, same-sex couples are unlikely candidates."
There are some 47,000 children in social protective care in Japan, of which 90 percent live in orphanages and only 10 percent live with foster parents. The proportion of children living in institutions is far greater than that in Europe or the United States, and the government announced in 2011 that it would shift one-third of that population to foster care within a decade or so. In light of this goal, the possibility of LGBT couples becoming foster parents has attracted increasing attention.
Megumi Fuji, 39, who heads Rainbow Foster Care, a Tokyo-based organization promoting the involvement of LGBT people in the social protection of children, says the focus is on children's needs.
"Why don't we frame it not as giving LGBT people a chance to have children, but rather, that LGBT people can safeguard a child's right to grow up in a family?"
Last summer, Fuji visited Seattle, Washington, where LGBT foster parents are growing in number. Fuji said she came face to face with reasons to encourage same-sex couples' participation in the foster care system, upon learning about a girl who was afraid of men as a result of previous abuse and was put in the care of a lesbian couple.
"I was surprised that there were cases in which being a same-sex couple was considered a plus," she said.
According to Tim Bell, 26, who works for an organization that supports the American foster care system and is a member of the International Foster Care Alliance (IFCA), 14.5 percent of foster children in Washington state consider themselves sexual minorities. He explained that having foster parents who are themselves LGBT can have a positive effect on foster children.
In January 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama pressed for more gay rights in his inaugural speech. A few months later in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. These developments have been helping to create the foundations on which to make society more open to LGBT foster parents.
LGBT people are not rare in Japan. According to a 2012 Dentsu Innovation Institute survey of 70,000 people, 5.2 percent said they considered themselves LGBT.
Wataru Ishizaka, an openly gay, 37-year-old member of the Nakano Ward assembly in Tokyo, says preconceived notions of what constitutes happiness have gotten in the way of LGBT acceptance. "In Japan, there's this pervasive idea that opposite-sex parents and children equal a happy family. There's no need to prevent children who are living without parents from meeting people who want to raise children just because they're homosexual."
Kyoto Prefectural University professor Tetsuo Tsuzaki, who is well-versed in the British foster care system, explains that same-sex foster parents are common in the U.K. and France.
"In Japan there's a lack of understanding toward same-sex couples as foster parents because of prejudice toward homosexuality itself," he says. "Social care services for children have lagged behind the changing shape of families. Unless we employ a wide range of human resources, the foster care system will fail to expand."