India is home to about 20 million orphaned children and a nearly equal number of infertile couples. And yet, as per the Central Adoption Resource Authority’s (CARA) records, there were only 3011 in-country adoptions in the year 2015-16.
Twenty million and three thousand – there is a sizeable chasm between the two figures. So, where are we going wrong?
There is a stigma attached to adoption in India. Socially, we have always viewed the ability to have children as a reflection of a man’s masculinity, and a barren woman has always been looked down upon. Moreover, adoption is not favoured because one is not sure what caste/religion/background the adopted child comes from.
Of course, a lot has changed over the years, but, unfortunately, a lot has also remained the same.
It is also worth noting that out of the 20 million or so orphaned children, at least 50,000 are adoptable, yet only about 1600 are legally “up for adoption”.
Apart from all this, there is just a general lack of awareness about child adoption in India. While the detailed process can be found on this website, below is a list that I have curated of little-known, but very important, facts about adopting a child in India.
- Only a fraction of orphaned children are legally adoptable.
Children (below 6 years) whose care-takers are unable to care for them can be relinquished at an adoption agency after following the required procedure. Likewise, a child found abandoned and whose caretakers cannot be traced, if eligible, can be declared ‘legally free for adoption’ by the Child Welfare Committee. A court-committed child can come into adoption through the Juvenile Welfare Board.
- Your registered religion decides which legislations regarding adoption will be applicable to you.
For Indian citizens who are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, or Buddhists the adoption is under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956. Under this act, a single parent or married couple are not permitted to adopt more than one child of the same sex.
Foreign citizens, NRIs, and those Indian nationals who are Muslims, Parsis, Christians or Jews are subject to the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890. Under this act, the adoptive parent is only the guardian of the child until she reaches 18 years of age.
There is also a Juvenile Justice Act of 2000, a part of which deals with adoption of children by non-Hindu parents. However, this act is applicable only to children who have been abandoned or abused and not to those children who have been voluntarily put up for adoption.
- Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) are allowed to give preferences as to what kind of child they wish to adopt, as crass as that sounds.
They may ask for a child of a certain age, gender (if it is the first child in the family), skin colour, religion, special features, health condition, etc. However, greater the specifications, more difficult it is to find a child who conforms to them.
- Single men cannot adopt, especially not a girl child.
Live-in couples and couples who have been married for less than two years are also not eligible for adopting a child. While the former is a rule meant to avoid cases of sexual abuse of female children, the latter is to make sure there is a minimal chance of the couple splitting up after adoption.
Many people oppose this, insisting that there should be an evaluation on a case-by-case basis rather than having a blanket rule which decreases the probability of an orphaned child getting a home.
- You can now adopt children online.
As part of the new rules, Maneka Gandhi’s ministry has brought all adoptive parents and children together in an online database managed by the CARA.
An adoptive parent can choose a child from any part of the country without getting stuck with one adoption agency. It is a transparent system, with parents given a seniority number instead of being put on indefinite wait.
We need to normalize the idea that adopting kids is a valid course of action even for parents who could conceive a child themselves. To see it as merely an inferior backup option for infertile couples is extremely regressive.
The only way to normalize something which goes against society’s most basic conventions is to spread awareness about it.
If people understand the process and read success stories, they’ll be more inclined to accept the concept. And that’s what we are striving towards.
So, if you are an adoptive parent, or know someone who is one, do share your story with us in the comments below!
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.