It’s a long road to joy for these adopted children

Mismatch of expectations leads to traumatic parting with parents; Centre launches remedial plan.

Updated - January 27, 2020 03:34 pm IST

Published - January 27, 2020 01:06 am IST - NEW DELHI

Nine-year old Arun (name changed) was returned by three families between 2015 and 2019 after he spent varying periods — four months to nearly two years — with them as either their adopted son or soon-to-be adopted son. Now, the government’s apex adoption body has stopped any further attempts at placing him with a family so he can be counselled and healed of the trauma caused by multiple rejections.

The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has recorded 246 instances of disruption over a period of five years between 2014-15 and 2018-19, which translates into six in 400 children being returned at an advanced stage of adoption. On an average there are 4,000 legal adoptions annually within and from India, as per official data. With the number of such cases showing a recent increase, CARA has begun a nationwide capacity building programme for social workers who help assess the suitability of the adoptive family and prepare a child for a new home.

CARA’s CEO, Lt. Col. Deepak Kumar, says, “This is not a happy situation. Children returning to the institution after being placed with a family face rejection and are scarred for a long time. In order to check this trend we formed a sub-committee of experts last year who travelled to different States to help us build capacity among social workers. A media report cited that there were 1,100 disruptions over the last five years, which is incorrect, as the correct figure is 246. We need to understand the difference between parents withdrawing from the adoption process for various reasons after accepting the profile of a child, and those who return the child after taking them in pre-adoption foster care, which is called disruption. While the former is about helping parents take an informed decision on adoption, the latter is completely detrimental to the best interests of the child.”

He adds that there have also been 10 dissolutions since 2015 when CARA underwent a massive reform. In such cases, parents return the child after they have received the adoption order from a court, which can take a year, if not more.

Adjustment problems

Arun was returned for varying reasons. First, the single adoptive father reported that there were problems in adjustment between his first adopted son and Arun. The second time, the adoptive family, not fully recovered from the loss of their 21-year-old biological child, would compare him with Arun and could not accept the new member. A third family saw that Arun could not forget the relationship he had developed with the earlier family with whom he had spent nearly two years and was unable to erase those memories, and thought it best to return him.

Last January, CARA formed a nine-member sub-committee of child rights activists, members of SC-appointed child welfare committees (CWCs), and adoptive parents. The panel developed a training curriculum and held three-day workshops in 12 States. The objective was to educate social workers about their responsibilities such as ensuring vaccination, adequate nutrition and medical assistance, and addressing special needs of children. The trainees learn to better assess the suitability of parents who wish to adopt and to counsel and prepare children, especially the older ones.

“The response has been very overwhelming and for most participants it is their first such training exercise. We try to use our personal experiences and teach the social workers to put themselves in the place of the prospective parents and to understand the anxiety and vulnerabilities of parents. At the same time, the children can’t be treated like files and papers. For these children adoption is not merely about a new home, or toys or a cycle. The child has to be taught about permanence of a relationship and familial bonds,” says Seema Khandekar who is part of the sub-committee, Chairperson of a CWC in New Delhi and a mother to two adoptive daughters.

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