Experts, activists call for guidelines on adoption by persons with disabilities

Published - July 11, 2024 12:34 am IST - Chennai

Activists and disabled parents have called for clarity and guidelines on adoption by persons with disabilities. “Every disabled couple has faced a problem at some stage of the adoption process,” said Bhagyam A., a polio-affected disabled mother who has undergone the process twice.

The call for guidelines and clarity has come in the wake of a couple in Thoothukudi having initially been denied a baby on July 5, and subsequently deemed eligible for adoption following a fitness test. S. Velmayil, 34, has a locomotor disability that affects both lower limbs (90% disability), and his wife Baby, 36, has a locomotor disability affecting her right hand and right leg (80% disability). Mr. Velmayil works at a fuel station, and Ms. Baby is an organiser at a noon meal centre.

The couple had registered for adoption in 2020, and renewed it in 2024. A baby was reserved for them in June. “Nobody said during the registration that we would be ineligible to adopt [an infant],” Ms. Baby said, adding that they had to run from pillar to post to get a medical certificate for adoption.

However, an adoption committee in Dindigul reportedly denied them the baby, as it felt that the couple would be unable to take care of the child, especially in the first two years, owing to their disability. After the incident was reported, a fitness test was conducted for the couple at the Thoothukudi Government Hospital. The result, released on Tuesday, deemed the couple eligible to adopt a baby. “There would have been no need for the test had the committee done its work with due diligence in the first place,” said Ms. Baby. The couple is now going through the entire adoption process again, and would next be meeting with the District Child Protection Officer as part of the process.

Recalling her experience during her first adoption in 2021, Ms. Bhagyam said: “It wasn’t until 2019 that I found out about the stand of [Central Adoption Research Authority] CARA on adoption by disabled couple. The adoption agency was extremely supportive in my case. However, It was during the final hearing that I faced discrimination. The judge did not want to sign the papers as he wasn’t confident. But the agency stood their ground, and I was able to adopt a baby. A basic guideline on adoption is required...”

Stressing the need for separate guidelines for adoption by the CARA, and in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, Aishwarya Rao, member, Disability Right Alliance, said: “CARA needs to revisit the adoption process by the disabled people....”

M. Ummulkhair, a disability rights’ lawyer, said if every other criterion was fulfilled, there cannot be any discrimination on the grounds of disability. “There are two types of rights in the case of adoption — of the child, and of the disabled. ...When the disabled person is confident or has the support system, they should be allowed to adopt [a child]. Adoption committees should be sensitised to such issues, and awareness should be raised among the disabled parents...,” she said.

Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has taken suo motu cognisance of the issue.

“Hearings will be held with the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment and CARA to proceed in the [Velmayil and Baby] case. Accordingly, we will take a call on forming the guidelines,” an official said.

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