Adoptions in India have been provided for under two legislations – the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Amendment Act, 2015 (J.J. Act) and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA). Adoptions under the JJ act require registration with CARA – Central Adoption Resource Authority, the nodal agency regulating adoptions in India. CARA provides for stringent due diligence of prospective parents, adherence to code by adoption agencies and a prudent process safeguarding the interests of the child. In contrast, adoptions under HAMA are informal, unregulated and without any check & balances. While both JJ act and HAMA are perfectly legal method of executing an adoption, the latter has attained the dubious distinction of encouraging child trafficking, exploitation of families and compromising child interests in legitimizing mass scale adoption via a law that was designed to legitimize private adoptions. So acute is the disparity that fewer than 3000 adoptions are effected via JJ Act while an estimated 70,000 plus (unreported) may be taking place under HAMA, per year in India.
That adoptions under HAMA are exploiting both birth and adoptive family is an understatement. Several touts have sprung up across cities to offer an “instantaneous” child to desperate prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) who are battered with the long wait with CARA, disappointed with lack of choice of “designer” children and generally critical of the responsibility demanded of them in adoption. Adoptions under HAMA may be legal, but most activities and actors supporting the underlying processes are illegal – namely sourcing the child, soliciting the parents and the actual act of adoption being a commercial transaction. It will not be an exaggeration to state that in continuing to allow mass scale adoptions under HAMA without corresponding safety measures, the government has put all the families on a time bomb ticking to explode, the reverberations of which shall echo by next generation!
World over, governments, NGOs and Employers offer benefits for safe and legal adoption. In India, only the JJ Act provides for child centric, legal and safe provisions for adoption, including child rehabilitation in case of dissolution. Such dimensions are conspicuously absent in HAMA. HAMA was never designed to support large scale adoption across strangers. Till such time HAMA either gets repealed or amended to offer the same degree of protection as the JJ Act, there are enough reasons to encourage adoptions only under the JJ Act.
Here are 5 ways to encourage adoptions under the JJ act:
- Offer tax rebates to parents adopting a child under the JJ Act. The rebate may be structured to encourage adoption of older children and children identifiably at risk in the institution.
- Offer health insurance cover to children adopted under the JJ Act.
- Offer benefits at work for adoptions under the JJ Act, across all employers.
- Offer Post-Adoption Support to families adopting under the JJ Act by way of school admissions, skill development, career counselling, special educators and access to specialists. This will come in very handy to assure parents who are wary of adoption due to lack of a support system.
- Offer lifestyle benefits to families in adoption such as priority in availing government services, defined benefits, travel passes, utility rebates etc. so as to inspire more and more families to adopt legally. After all, adoption is a much more dignified way to assimilate weaker and vulnerable sections of the society, that too of tender age, into mainstream. It is nothing short of nation building.
It is time we pull adoption out of the shadows of a Plan B by couples affected by infertility, rather start #ReimaginingAdoption as our obligation to secure a loving and secure childhood for every child of India – CONFIDENTLY AND LEGALLY.