Sandhya had just shifted to a new locality when her son Siddharth developed fever. So, Sandhya took him to see a doctor. Upon arrival at the clinic, the receptionist gave her a form to fill. Among others details, the form also sought information about the patient’s birth history and blood group. When the time came to fill in this information, Sandhya started feeling uneasy. But when she looked up at her son, she found him smiling. Siddharth had realised her dilemma; he said, “I think it’s okay to tell the doctor that I am adopted and my blood group is AB (negative) unlike that of my parents.” Relieved by his answer and giving him a mental hug, Sandhya proceeded to fill the form. This anecdote reveals that there has been a sea change in Indians’ attitude towards adoption. They are now more accepting and open about it.
Adoption in India
In a majority of cases, adoption is a choice made to expand the family. Therefore, adoptive couples should thoroughly discuss the issue among themselves and with their extended families, who may have reservations about it. Acceptance by extended families is desirable to make the adopted child feel welcome in the family.
Laws governing adoption
With the increasing acceptance of adoption in India, adoption laws have also matured over the past 30 years. During the 1970s and 80s, tempted by the lure of big money, adoption rackets used to send many children overseas for adoption. But the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) has tightened the rules to curb such irregularities. The new laws give priority to Indian citizens living in India and have made overseas adoption procedures difficult. One of the highlights of the new procedures is the facility for parents to register online (www.cara.nic.in).
Aspiring parents can adopt a child under the following Acts in India:
- The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 – for Hindus
- A child adopted under this Act can inherit property and enjoy all the rights of a biological child.
- The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 – for non-Hindus
- This Act does not bestow all the rights on an adopted child. However, the parents can safeguard the child’s interests by registering the adoption and naming the child an heir through a will.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (yet to gain usage among agencies)
- This Act does not clearly state the legal heir status, but it does confer on the adopted child all the rights of a biological child.
The prerequisites for adoption are also mentioned on the CARA website. While both the High Courts and Family Courts can handle the adoption cases under the first two Acts, only the High Court is permitted to handle cases under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Adoptive parents can take the child home after signing the foster care agreement. After adoption, the authorities conduct periodic follow-ups to ascertain the well-being of the child. They expect the adoptive parents to provide the child(ren) with the best care and education for a safe future.
Preparing for adoption
Adoptive couples should familiarise themselves with some of the guidelines that govern adoption in India:
- A couple should preferably adopt two children, either together or within a few years of each other.
- The spouses should enjoy a good relationship, as divorce of parents is the last thing an adopted child should be put through.
- The mother should be able to spend at least 2–3 years with the child before taking up even part-time work. This is to ensure that bonding and attachment cycles are firmly in place.
- The couple should read extensively about adoption. They should also meet adoptees as well as adoptive families before going in for adoption. This will make it easier to take a decision.
- The couple should set aside plenty of time to bond with the child. They should not be in a hurry to resume their jobs by entrusting the child to day care centres or a caregiver. The latter may prevent the development of trusting relationships.
Meeting the requirements
- Meeting a happy adoptive family helps the aspiring couples understand what it takes to adopt and stay strong through the process.
- Attending a session with an adoption support group provides an opportunity to seek answers to all questions before taking the decision to adopt.
- Parents can browse through the website of the adoption agency for details and to apply online.
- Meeting an adoption counsellor or a social worker for clarifications while applying is also helpful.
Costs of adoption
Adoptive couples should be aware of the expenses incurred for adoption. These include amounts to be paid to the social worker (for conducting a home study) and the adoption agency.
Some courts order a fixed deposit to be made in the name of the child, but this is not a standard requirement. However, a few courts make it mandatory, especially for a child adopted under the Guardians and Wards Act.
When the child arrives
Adoptive parents must prepare their home to suit the child before they bring her in. During the next few weeks, parents must focus on understanding her daily requirements and health care needs, and efforts to help her adapt to the new surroundings. With patience and time, the adoptive parents can help the child adjust to the new conditions. Also, it is a good idea to wait for the child to settle down before inviting the extended families over for a get-together; it is likely that the child may not want to mingle with others until she starts trusting her primary caregivers. Remember, a child is like a sponge, and will observe and absorb everything that goes on around her. Therefore, parents should provide her with a stimulating setting.
Growing with the adopted child
Adoptive couples must grow consciously as parents and learn how to handle questions about the child. Therefore, it is a good idea to inform the child early on about his adoptive status. Telling the child that he is adopted will help in clearing any doubts or questions that may arise in his mind in the future. It is also important to watch for any health-related issues in the growing child. Parents should nurture the child with an open mind and set realistic expectations about his education, talents and behaviour.
A word of caution
Spurious child care institutions or hospitals may make promises about placing children in adoption without a court’s approval or paperwork. Therefore, aspiring parents should be aware of the process and not rely upon such agents to speed things up; it is illegal to adopt a child without getting the required sanction from the authorities.
Vidya Shankar is the Secretary, SuDatta Adoptive Families Association, Tamil Nadu.