Finding a home: On India’s adoption policy

The established adoption process should not be bypassed to increase the numbers

August 18, 2022 12:20 am | Updated 11:50 am IST

Policy intervention without knowledge of the ground realities often ends up as an exercise in self-gratification for those in authority and results in little or no benefit for the intended target group. Wanting to do good must be matched by knowing the right thing to do in the circumstance, and in the case of children, be guided by child-centric policies. Whether the recent recommendation of a parliamentary panel to bring more abandoned children into the adoption process will fulfil these parameters is an issue that warrants further discussion. A recent report, “Review of Guardianship and Adoption Laws”, by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice has pointed to the huge mismatch between the number of people wanting to adopt children and the number of children legally available for adoption, and suggested that the way to remedy that would be to ensure that “orphan and abandoned children found begging on the streets… are made available for adoption at the earliest”. To do so, it has suggested periodic district surveys to identify children who are orphaned/abandoned. The report argued that in a country with millions of orphans, only 2,430 children were available for adoption. It is true that there are always more people wanting to adopt children than the number of children actually available for adoption; it has been so historically, but the increasing chasm, as the report indicates, will undoubtedly have to be addressed. According to the report, there were 27,939 prospective parents registered with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) as on December 2021, from nearly 18,000 in 2017. There were 6,996 orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children residing in childcare institutions considered adoptable, but only 2,430 were declared legally free for adoption by Child Welfare Committees. It claimed that the waiting time for adoption had increased to three years from one year, in the past five years. The total number of children adopted in 2021-22 was only 3,175.

But the process of adoption in the country was tightened — procedurally and legally — in response to rampant malpractices and inter-country adoption rackets. CARA was installed as the nodal body for in-country and inter-country adoptions, to monitor and regulate the process, ensuring through stringent rules that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, and no illegality is involved. While the parliamentary committee has interpreted that there is automatic happiness when a child in an institution is placed in a home, it is important to exercise caution. No doubt, the country should take care of its children orphaned due to circumstances, but even as it acknowledges that institutionalisation may be detrimental over the long term, it should pay equal attention to the finer aspects of child care, and allow itself to be guided by a child-centric philosophy. There are no shortcuts in ensuring orphaned children come to no harm.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here

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