Reimagining Adoption

Nov 17 - Why is there such a long wait for legal adoption in India

Category: FoJ Point of View

The number of parents registered with CARA to adopt a child has increased to 17,000 and so has the average wait time. A parents has to wait anywhere between 12-16 months depending upon the age, gender and location form where the child is being adopted. Quite often parents wonder as to why is there such a long wait period to adopt a child. In a nation where one sees thousands of destitute children across streets, traffic signals, restaurants, unorganized sector – should there not be an oversupply, rather than a shortage of kids available for adoption? There are several factors responsible for this and a deep understanding of the same will also help parents in developing a child centric approach towards adoption.

The single most factor responsible for the huge demand-fulfillment gap is the extreme shortage of children legally available for adoption in the CARA database. CARA draws its list from the 500 odd Adoption Agencies registered across States. Each of these agencies is supposed to map children living in institutions, orphanages, child care homes etc. to its data of those legally free for adoption. The biggest gap lies in mapping of children in institutions to those with adoption agencies. Just a handful of child care institutions are complying with the requirement of uploading children under their care into the CARA database. The net biggest gap lies in the children under the care of these institutions to those legally free for adoption.

Not every child in an orphanage is legally free for adoption. Also, contrary to popular belief, most children in an institution are actually not orphans. Many have at last one parent living. Plus there are those who have run away from home, lost in transit, trafficked or whose parents have become delinquent. In each of these cases, government agencies are at work in restoring the child to its lawful family. This is a complex and time consuming process. At times older children do not wish to return to their homes. On other occasions children of a given gender may be forced into trafficking, making their restoration to family impossible for state machinery. Law provides for a period of 2 months before which even a seemingly destitute child cannot be proclaimed free for adoption. In addition, there are several parents who leave their children in the care of an orphanage, as they are out for work, in same or different city, confined in prison or in hospitals where they cannot take care of the child in present situation – but hope to proclaim the child once the confinement is over. Though there is limited data and public research, it may be safe to assume that nearly 50% of the children in institutions may not be legally free for adoption – at any given point in time.

For the remaining half, there are several reasons why they fail to show up in the CARA database such as

If the child care homes start reporting children in their care to adoption agencies (by the way, there is a supreme court order for all child care homes in India to comply with this requirement by December 2017) and if parents cease to choose a child of their preference, at least ten to fifteen fold increase is bound to happen in the number of children legally available for adoption, potentially bringing down the wait period to a few months.

We, together as a community, have a role to play in minimizing the time a child spends in the institution, and joins the family. The inordinate delay not only frustrates parents and tempts them to adopt towards illegal methods, it also increases the risks of malnourishment, infection and even crime with prolonged exposure to sub-ordinate conditions – at an early and critical stage in life.

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