Media watch: Adoptive parents still worry how society views their children, and them

Last week, Asahi Shimbun reported on a survey conducted by Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto of parents who had adopted children deposited in the hospital’s famous “stork cradle,” the euphemistically named box where parents can anonymously leave newborn babies they won’t or can’t raise themselves. Such “baby hatches” are not exclusive to Japan, and one was featured in the South Korean movie Broker, which was written and directed by the Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda. Jikei’s is the only baby hatch in Japan, and opened in 2007. As of 2021, 161 infants had been left in the hatch, and Jikei decided to survey the guardians who had subsequently taken in the children, through either “special” adoption (meaning adopting minors as the adopters’ own children, as opposed to adopting adults as heirs), foster care programs, or orphanages. These three outcomes comprised the fate of 80 percent of the 155 baby hatch foundlings that had been left at the hospital through 2019. No mention was made in the article of what had happened to the remaining 20 percent.

The surveys were conducted anonymously as well, and 94 percent of those who received the questionnaire responded. Asahi concentrated on the answers returned by the adoptive parents, of which 67 percent said that they had revealed to their children that they had been adopted. The most common age at which this revelation was made (34 percent) was “around 3 years old.” Among these children, 18 percent had been told specifically that they had been left in the baby hatch, and the most common time they were told this was “before they started elementary school.” Fourteen percent of the parents who have not told their children they are adopted said they don’t plan to ever tell them, while 69 percent said they are still “considering” whether to tell them in the future. 

The hospital staff in charge of the matter told Asahi that the survey results indicate that “we have to do a better job of promoting understanding among the general public [about child adoption] in order to prevent discrimination of adopted children,” the implication being that parents who adopt children as infants with the intention of never telling them their provenance could make it emotionally difficult for their children when they invariably find out. The head of the hospital went further in saying that he didn’t expect that this many parents would have decided not to reveal to their children their adopted situation. 

“We really need to discuss this matter with those involved in order to instill more confidence in adoptive parents,” he said.

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