Parents left in lurch as adoption agency abruptly closes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A couple from Kanagawa Prefecture who adopted a baby boy through Baby Life are interviewed on Sunday.

The sudden closure of a long-established adoption agency has perplexed parents who adopted children through the mediation.

Baby Life, a private group based in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, received large amounts of money right up until its business suspension. The agency was in possession of documents on the children’s birth mothers, which are indispensable records for adopted children to learn about their backgrounds.

Where to turn?

“As soon as the child came to us, the group disappeared. Adoption was new to us, and we’re worried. Where should we turn?” said a Kanagawa Prefecture woman in her 20s who adopted a boy through Baby Life last June.

There were suspicious things about the group. One of them was that the group’s representative told her over the phone that he wanted her to provide ¥2.7 million in cash as the agency’s account might be frozen.

The woman thought the agency might no longer be able to operate. But at the same time, she said that she was excited to think, “We may be able to have the child we’ve been waiting for.”

She withdrew money at a bank and took it to a maternity hospital in Chiba Prefecture. However, she couldn’t find the representative there, and a different person from the agency handed the baby to the woman.

About a week later, before dawn on Sunday, the representative came to the woman’s house in a black suit. When she put cash on the living room table, the man put the money into his business bag without even counting it and drove away in a black car. Three days later, on July 1, she called the agency to check on the paperwork and was told that the agency would no longer be able to operate.

Birth mother data

Adoptive parents are concerned that, in the future, their children may not be able to trace the circumstances that led to their adoption.

A Tokyo woman in her 50s who adopted a baby boy through Baby Life in 2013 was at a loss for words when the boy asked her on the night of his seventh birthday, “Why did I come here?”

She had already told him that he had a biological mother, but it was the first time he asked her about his background.

Baby Life had not told her why his biological mother chose adoption. Instead, she was told that the agency would give the documents to the boy himself if he requested when he became an adult.

“How will information on the birth mother be stored, and who will provide advice in the future? The group should explain,” the woman said.

The adoption agency law states that if a private agency closes its business, it should hand over the data to the relevant local government. The woman asked the Tokyo metropolitan government to provide records on her son’s birth mother, but was refused. She was told, “It is difficult to disclose it from the viewpoint of protecting the personal information of biological parents.”

According to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry fact-finding survey, 610 of the 920 adoptions formalized nationwide in fiscal 2014-15, or two-thirds of them, involved child welfare centers, while the remaining third, or 310 cases, involved private agencies. Child centers do not charge, but they usually handle only several cases a year per center, and would-be parents often register with private agencies as well.