From e-Amma to warm Amma

The electronic cradle, `Amma', placed in the compound of the State Council for Child Welfare has ensured that there is a steady stream of abandoned infants into the nursery there. A few years ago, the only option before the Department of Social Welfare for rehabilitating them was to place them in institutions.

But these days, many of these children are lighting up the lives of childless couples. Adoption is no longer a hush-hush affair and there are even those who are willing to consider it an alternative to biological parenthood. The Department is observing the fortnight from November 14 as Adoption Awareness fortnight, so that greater awareness can be generated among people on the need for adoption and on legal adoption.

A get-together of families who had adopted children from the agencies under the Social Welfare Department was organised by it last month, along with the Child Welfare Council. The response was encouraging. Twenty-eight families came together to share their experiences on how their lives changed after the patter of little feet were heard in their homes too; they also shared their apprehensions, their feelings of increased social acceptance and general sense of well-being.

Despite all the attention that is being generated, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding the issue of adoption, says the Joint Director of Social Welfare, K. K. Mani.

"A lot many people do not know the formalities that they have to go through before they can legally adopt a child. These formalities are necessary to ensure that the child's future is secure with its new parents and that the new parent will have all legal rights over the child's custody. However, illegal adoptions that are centred around abandoned infants in hospitals, has been thriving here because of the ignorance of people," he says.

At present, only Hindus can legally adopt children, while those belonging to other religions can only have the guardianship of the children. However, on the post-adoption evaluation conducted on the 28 families who have adopted children from the Council, it was found that even among Hindu families, only 60 per cent had legally adopted the children.

The former Miss Universe, Sushmita Sen, generated a lot of interest when she opted for single motherhood by adopting a baby girl. The authorities too have been willing to accommodate the change in times and are not turning away those who want to bring up a child alone. National agencies like the Indian Agency for the Promotion of Adoptions have been encouraging recognised adoption centres in the country to work in close coordination with medical practitioners so that couples who have been undergoing long and protracted treatment for infertility are encouraged to think of adoptions before they are past their prime.

It has been found that 63 per cent of those couples who approached the Council for adoption had undergone infertility treatment for over 10 years and 16 per cent had undergone treatment for 5 to 10 years before they decided to opt for adoption. Twenty-three out of 28 families did not want to reveal to their children their adoptive status.

As the adoption agencies never cease to tell them, it is how one loves and nurtures the child that makes all the difference; cultural and religious values are not inherited, they are acquired and it is one's commitment and involvement as a parent that makes a child one's own.

By C. Maya

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