Osaka the first city that allows same-sex couples to be foster parents.

A gay couple living in Osaka City has been recognized as foster parents in Osaka City. It is the first case in Japan that a gay couple became foster parents, according to municipal and central government officials. (there used to be a lesbian couple who was allowed to be a foster parent respectively and they started to live together with the foster child in Kanto region.)

Last September, the gay couple sent their application form to the child guidance center to be foster parents. After taking multiple seminars required to deeply understand foster care system and its principles, the couple went through the interview and became foster parents. The foster child, a teenage boy, has already been in their care since last February.

“LGBT is a minority group, but they are the members of our society and are also able to be actively involved in our society. I know everyone does not necessarily agree with the city’s decision, but I hope this case makes some difference in other municipalities,too” said, Hirobumi Yoshimura, the mayor of Osaka City. When he was interviewed on TV, he said “it does not matter whether you are gay or not when it comes to foster care. People should know that.”

The city official in charge of the management of foster parents said “Anyone can become a foster parent in Osaka City as long as you meet the requirements to be a foster parent. To meet the requirements, you need to be healthy, economically stable, and have passion to raise a child with love. Your sexuality does not matter. The couple was recognized as foster parents because we are sure that they are good with him and they are ready.”

Yodogawa Ward in Osaka City started taking measures, known as “LGBT Support Declaration,” to support LGBT couples living in the city about two years ago. The mayor of Yodogawa Ward at that time saw the news and started working on allowing same-sex couples to be foster parents.

“We can live with him as his family, not as two guardians just living together with him. This means a lot to us. He talks about his school life and his friends. I think we are doing great now. Foster care system is about giving. Giving a foster child an environment where he or she can safely grow up with love. It’s not about people who just want a kid. It’s about him or her who needs a family. We are caregivers. We hope more people know about foster care system and get interested in being part of it,” said the gay couple.

<Foster Care>
Foster care is a system where a minor has been placed into private home of a caregiver for a variety of reasons such as deaths of parents, child abuse and neglect by family member. Foster children experience high rates of emotional deprivation and chronic medical problems, so they are differently placed in foster care according to their situations. “Senmon” foster parents(meaning “professional” in Japanese) take care of a minor who needs special care and constant supervision. “Yo-shiengumi” foster parents (meaning “adoption”) take care of a minor with the intention of adopting him or her later. “Shinzoku” foster parents (meaning “relatives”) are the relatives like grandparents. “Youiku” foster parents (meaning “nursing”) take care of a minor until the minor becomes 18 years old or until his or her parent gets back to normal and qualified enough to raise him or her.

Foster parents are compensated for expenses for education and living fees.

Model guidelines for foster care were set by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2011. The guidelines stipulate the importance of economical independence of foster parents and their intention to raise a foster child with love and passion. The guidelines do not ban people from being foster parents because of their sexuality.

Everyone who wants to be a foster parent is required to go through a variety of checkups like their income level and housing. After they pass the checkups, the placement of a foster child is arranged through the local government.

According to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, there are approximately 45,000 children living in the care outside of their families in Japan. Most of them live in child care institutions and 5,000 of them are now in the care of foster parents, which is only 10% of them. Many same-sex couples have wanted to be foster parents in Japan. As of last March, the total number of foster families is 3,704 and 87% of them are heterosexual couples and 13% of them are single-parent families.

“The number of children who need foster care has been increasing for years. Anyone should be allowed to be a foster parent if they meet the requirement regardless of their sexuality,” said the official from Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.

However, local municipalities are able to make their own requirements. For example, Osaka City does not ban same-sex couples from becoming foster parents. As long as they take all the seminars and have interviews with the experts and officials from the child counseling center, anyone can become a foster parent. On the other hand, same-sex couples are not allowed in Tokyo. “We all know diversity should be respected, but whether or not they can raise a child as a family needs more discussion,” said the official in Tokyo.

“Osaka City’s decision is a huge step. Those children will have more opportunities to meet people who are willing to welcome them as a new family member. But same-sex couples have not been widely accepted in Japan, so we cannot still deny the possibility of the foster children suffering disadvantage while living with same-sex foster parents. To avoid that, we also need to work on this matter in cooperation with local municipalities,” said Fumiharu Yamagata, an expert on foster care problems.

“It does not matter if foster parents are same- sex couples or not. What’s best for the child must come first. It seems Osaka City listened to him, considered what’s best for him, and they came to the conclusion that the couple is the ones for him,”said the official from “Japan Foster Parents Group,” a public interest incorporated foundation for foster parents in Japan.

“The fact that a major city like Osaka City officially recognizes the same-sex couple as a family is very significant. The children who need foster care come from diverse backgrounds, so there must be something same-sex foster parents can do, but heterosexual foster parents can’t. As the child lives with the gay couple as a family, I hope more people will understand sexuality does not matter when it comes to child-raising,” said Megumi Fuji, the representative of “Rainbow Foster Care,” a general incorporated association for foster care in Japan. She says that same-sex foster parents are widely accepted in western countries, but in Japan, same-sex couples are often rejected by foster care organizations because of the lack of awareness of sexual diversity among them.

“The increasing awareness of LGBTs has changed the definition of ‘family’ in western countries. Soon or later, we’ll have to get people to understand and embrace not only individual diversity, but also family diversity. In western countries, the number of the advertisement targeting same-sex couples has increased. We, as a nation, need to change rules and laws as sexual diversity gets accepted in our society. I hope this case will be milestone toward supporting those who work for social changes and many more local municipalities will follow suit,” said Takahiko Morinaga, the representative of “Japan LGBT Research Institute,Inc”

I found a really good article in Buzzap! So I will quote the part I like from the article.

“Some people feel pity for the children who are raised by same-sex couples because the children will be discriminated against in society. Then the people blame it on same-sex couples. That’s so stupid. If you really worry about those children, what you need to do is to speak up to stop the bigots from hurting them. They get ridiculed and bullied not because they are raised by same-sex couples, but because our society is filled with malice and the prejudice against sexual minority. It’s you and the bigots that need to change, not them. If you really care about the innocent children and their parents who will be or are now in struggle, please speak up for them.”

Same-sex couples are now able to be foster parents in Japan. It must be a major step for Japan to start embracing sexual diversity and family diversity.