Adoption: probe reveals more shady deals

HYDERABAD DEC. 25. Police investigations into the child adoption racket which rocked the State last year have shown that some of the "adoption'' agencies had actually "kidnapped'' children and sold them for money.

The chargesheet filed against Tender Loving Care (TLC) at the Nampally city court states that between 1999 and 2001, the TLC received Rs. 3.33 crores for inter-country adoption, mainly to the US. Similarly, Rs. 55 lakhs was collected from Indian parents during this same period.

Officially, the permitted fee for maintenance and processing of the case that these agencies can charge the adoptive parents is Rs. 100 a day and Rs. 10,000, respectively.

The same chargesheet provides evidence that some of these children were picked up by "mediators'' of TLC from poor Lambada parents for as little as Rs. 500.

This seems to substantiate much of the charges that were levelled against many adoption agencies by NGOs and which have been hotly contested by the latter.

Children come to "adoption agencies'' mainly through two methods. Either they are found abandoned or parents relinquish their children to orphanages and adoption agencies, for a variety of reasons like poverty and single motherhood. These then place these relinquished children with adoptive parents.

The law regulating the relinquishment of children and their subsequent placing in adoptive homes provides for many safeguards, including a period of 60 days from the act of relinquishment, when the parents can reconsider their decision and take back their children.

Interestingly, the chargesheet shows that all children given in adoption were relinquished. But in a majority of cases the relinquishment deed was found to have been forged.

During investigations police found that fictitious parents were entered into the document and often entire villages were invented to place these fictitious parents! Therefore, when the police wanted to return these children to their biological parents, they could not locate them or the villages mentioned in the relinquishment deeds.

Apart from this, police investigations have revealed that often these "adoption'' agencies were in such a tearing hurry to send these children abroad that they did not wait for the mandatory 60-day period from the date of relinquishment to place the children in adoption.

So in effect they did not leave any scope for the biological parents to reconsider their decision and take back their children.

And the reason for this hurry seems understandable. The chargesheets also provide enough proof that apart from being a source of lucre, these babies also enabled "adoption'' agency officials and their relatives to go on free "foreign trips'' as "escorts'' for these children.

On the basis of evidence collected, the chargesheet states that TLC "lured poor Lambadas with money, purchased the babies by engaging mediators and most of them were sent for inter-country adoption with an intention to earn cash and huge money.'' These investigations were able to identify 436 babies picked up from Lambada villages between 1998 and 2001.

Similar charges have been filed previously against other "adoption'' centres like John Abraham Memorial Bethany Home in Tandur and Precious Moments run by Anita Sen.

In the case of Bethany Home, apart from these charges of child trafficking, gross negligence in childcare has been clearly documented.

This resulted in the death of at least 31 children. Those who were rescued after the adoption racket was busted were admitted to the Hyderabad-based Niloufer Hospital and doctors certified that all the children were malnourished.