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Adoption hurdles
Bharati Das Gupta

Amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, bringing in much-needed changes in
the adoption process,await Parliament approval. However, if the proposed
amendments are to achieve the desired objectives, a lot more than changes in
law are necessary.

    The Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA),an autonomous body until
recently under the ministry of social justice and empowerment, formulates
adoption policy and regulates its execution through 112 adoption agencies.
Relinquished, abandoned or court-committed children up to the age of six are
eligible for adoption. The agency registers parents who wish to adopt and in
keeping with the rules, the child is placed in adoption. The prospective
parents pay a fee towards processing costs and reimbursement of expenses
incurred on the child during her stay. Several couples and even single
parents,both Indian and foreigners, now opt to adopt. Most parents are known
to register in metro agencies.

    Getting children into the adoption stream is one of the key factors that
influence the process of adoption in India. Only relinquished children come
directly into an agency. The agency receives its 'share' of abandoned and
court-committed children through the child welfare committee or the juvenile
welfare board. These numbers are small. CARA policy also prevents the free
movement of children across agencies/states. Only a child who has stayed in
an agency for more than two years or is above the age of six can be
transferred. Inter-state transfers must be done with the permission of the
state government.Further,many non-metro agencies are not keen to transfer
children. Most of those agencies are subsidised by government on a per-child

    Many agencies resort to unethical practices both in obtaining children
and in servicing the highest bidder. Many agencies, including some of the
clean ones,are known to coerce unwed mothers to give up their babies and
even have short-stay arrangements for them. Some agencies even scout for
children: approaching private hospitals, following leads about an expectant
mother in a poor family, or encouraging police officials not to trace
parents of a 'lost' child.

    The prescribed fee for an inter-country placement is higher than an
internal one. Also, pressure can be exerted on a desperate foreigner for
large donations. Bribes and forged documents are used liberally. Many Indian
agencies also have arrangements with agencies abroad and receive funds from
them. There is an implied commitment to place a specified minimum number of
children, which agencies are under pressure to fulfil.

    Inter-country adoptions have been blamed for almost everything that is
wrong with Indian adoption. However, they continue to remain a necessity.
Many Indian children,particularly older and darkskinned ones as well as
special-needs cases, cannot find homes in India. If these children are to be
rehabilitated in a home, it must happen through inter-country adoption.
Besides, most inter-country placements are apparently successful, if one is
to go by the response of adult Indian adoptees. In addition, foreign
collaboration often lends superior childcare standards in the Indian agency,
since standards are often prescribed by the funding agency.

    The growing demand from within India of prospective adoptive parents
cannot, however, be ignored and must be addressed immediately. The dearth of
children and excess numbers of parents waiting to adopt in city agencies on
one hand, and hundreds of languishing children in agencies outside the
metros on the other is a paradox. This huge mismatch, if bridged, can lead
to more in-country placements and less dependence on inter-country

    The first initiative, therefore, must come from revisions that will
encourage more in-country placements. CARA must address questions of
transfers across, and partnerships between, agencies. Both the ministry for
women and child development, to which CARA now reports, and CARA must
appreciate that by simply mandating 50 per cent in-country placements is an
exercise in futility. They must recognise that while some agencies can place
children, others can only source.

    CARA must also create an environment that is congenial to adoptions by
providing complete information on all waiting children across the country as
well as by simplifying procedures. The dwindling number of placements - only
3,000 in 2005 - can hardly make CARA proud.

    The writer is with Catalysts for Social Action, Pune.
Publication:Times of India Mumbai; Date:Sep 4, 2006; Section:Editorial; Page