For every Indian parent who adopts a differently-abled child there are at least seven foreigners who adopt such children from India after they fail to find a family in the country.
The latest data shared by the apex body for adoption in the country — Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) — reveals that domestic adoptions of children with special needs has fallen with every passing year. At the same time, foreigners adopting children with a physical deformity or an ailment rose by 50% last year alone.
A total of 355 differently-abled children were adopted by foreign applicants in 2017-2018, up from 237 in the preceding year. Only 46 such children were adopted by Indian parents in the same year. It was 76 in 2015-2016 and 49 in 2016-2017.
“Those who do adopt such children actually would have opted for a healthy child but because of the long waiting period involved, they switch to a differently-abled child,” says CARA CEO Lieutenant Colonel Deepak Kumar. He explains that, as per law, efforts have to be made to place a child within India first, and only when a child is not accepted by Indian applicants is he or she referred to foreigners. As a result, overseas applicants are mostly referred differently-abled children.
Activists and parents attribute the huge gap to differences in cultural attitudes towards disabilities. “We often see how parents of healthy children have huge expectations of them. So, naturally, there is social stigma attached with disabilities in our country,” says 28-year-old Kavita Baluni, who adopted a child with Down’s Syndrome last year.
Activists says that while better social security abroad helps families adopt a child with disabilities, there is also a need to look within.
“In India, there are issues related to schooling, access to public spaces, and employment opportunities. While all these factors do contribute to parents in India not opting for differently-abled children, the primary reason is our attitude towards them. After all, why is it that those with means in India also don’t adopt these children?” says Lorraine Campos, assistant director, Delhi Council for Child Welfare.