Supreme Court calls for collaborative efforts to bring children into the adoption pool

The court orders States and Union Territories to begin a bi-monthly drive to identify children in the orphaned, abandoned, surrendered category in institutions, starting from December 7

Updated - November 21, 2023 11:12 pm IST

Published - November 21, 2023 09:47 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud turned its focus on a finding by the Central Adoption Resource Authority that many children were living in child care institutions for over a year with undetermined legal status. File

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud turned its focus on a finding by the Central Adoption Resource Authority that many children were living in child care institutions for over a year with undetermined legal status. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Supreme Court said that children living in child care institutions (CCI), whose parents have not visited them for over a year or have “unfit” parents or guardians, should be identified and brought into the adoption pool.

The court defined an “unfit guardian” as someone who is “unable or unwilling for parenting, indulging in substance (drug) abuse, abuse or alcohol, known to have abused or neglected the child, having a criminal record, in need of care themselves, mentally unsound, etc”.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud turned its focus on a finding by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) that many children were living in CCIs for over a year with undetermined legal status.

“All such children should be identified district wise in the category of ‘unfit parents’ or if their parents or guardians have not visited them in the last one year or more or vice-versa. The district functionaries should make collaborative efforts to bring more such children into the adoption pool,” the court said in an 11-page order published late on November 21.

The court ordered States and Union Territories to begin a bi-monthly drive to identify children in the orphaned-abandoned-surrendered (OAS) category in CCIs, starting from December 7, 2023.

The court also directed States and Union Territories to compile data on potential children for adoption, especially amongst those languishing in CCIs, and hand over the details to the CARA Director, and the Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, by January 31, 2024.

How to adopt a child in India?

“It is imperative for the States to ensure registration of all OAS children in the district on the CARINGS portal,” the court said.

The Bench highlighted the “huge mismatch” between children available for legal adoption and the number of prospective adoptive parents (PAP) according to CARA’s online portal, the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System or CARINGS. A State-wise break-up of the figures provided by CARA, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, showed that 2,146 children were available for adoption as on October 28, 2023.

“As opposed to this, about 30,669 PAPs have been registered for in-country adoption as of October 2023. PAPs have to wait for between three to four years for getting ‘a healthy and young child’ due to the huge mismatch in the number of registered PAPs and children available for adoption,” the order noted.

Further, it also emerged in court that out of 760 districts in the country, only 390 districts have Specialised Adoption Agencies.

Also read | Why are adoption rates so low in India where thousands of children live in child care institutions?

Adding to these reasons for delay in the adoption process is the fact that PAPs “prefer” children up to the age of two for adoption. CARA’s tabulation indicates that 69.4% of registered PAPs opt for children in the age group of zero to two years; 10.3% in the age group of two to four years; and 14.8% in the age group of four to six years.

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