Is your Preference the Hindrance?

With average wait time for adopting a child in the most popular category (i.e. a healthy child below 2 years of age) pegged at anywhere between 15-18 months, parents cannot be faulted for being desperate for any piece of advice that can reduce their wait time. The most commonly asked question across forums is – have we chosen the right preferences in adoption? Here is one tip – ignore those preferences – and here is why.

Thanks to unending conversations on wait time over numerous Facebook groups and communities of parents awaiting adoption, most parents now understand that the key to their wait time lies in the preferences indicated by them at the time of registration. For those not active on these groups, the discovery is more by trial and error or an occasional guidance by the social worker during home study phase. An accidental reference through some common friend could be another god sent opportunity for a parent to revisit their preferences. There is a huge problem though – in all these sources of advice. None of them is backed by data. Very few of these pundits know how seniority, preferences and wait list are related to each other. Only a qualified, well researched and professional adviser would!

With due respect to each community, the social media groups are chat rooms with loads of sympathy, empathy, competition and even envy – but little data. Math, as it is, does not intuitively find a place in afternoon chats.  Social Workers have a huge backlog of cases to clear and CARA has not trained them adequately to render a data backed advice before, during or after the home study. It is not uncommon to find social workers unaware of Immediate Placement categories even years after its inception. Worse still, their understanding of the same is limited to guesswork on its name – than its mechanics. Lesser said the better, on their ability to counsel parents on availability of children across categories. As for CARA, the front line folks (wo)manning their helpdesk, and even officials through the delivery chain are often ignorant of the bigger picture. No wonder, what one encounters in the community of parents is mere noise, opinions, grievances, confusion and tale after tales of how parents have lost precious months and at times even their seniority on account of inappropriate preferences and/or lack of guidance. It is akin to parents being provided with a combination lock in preferences without telling them the code to unlock. It is time for parents to take a pause and think – is preference the real hindrance?

You may be pleasantly surprised to know that CARA presently offers 7 choices to parents for adoption, namely,

  1. First State
  2. Second State
  3. Third state
  4. Gender (Boy or Girl)
  5. Age (Several Age groups)
  6. Category (Single or Sibling)
  7. Health (Normal or Special Need)

While the lawmakers’ generosity in offering this bouquet of choices to parents may place them a notch above the Creator (for, He does not pamper the parents with even a single choice when it comes to parenthood) in the absence of any guidance or supporting data – on how to make these choices, it only culminates in confusion, contributes to delay and sometimes even leads to dissolution of adoption. Something that CARA simply fails to understand in its parent centric model of adoption. They strongly believe that if parents are not given choices children will not be adopted. Thankfully, He has better “delivery” model surprising parents with a boy, girl, twins, triplets, still born, pre-term or a special need child – that too WITHOUT RECOURSE. And the model seems to be working fairly well – by and large! CARA could well draw some courage from the same, jettisoning its fears in implementing a child centric adoption eco-system.

Until such time that happens or CARA starts offering a credible guidance on how to mark each Preference, we can only make a feeble attempt at analyzing which of these preferences are really relevant for you, so that you are assured of having done your best.

WARNING: what is relevant for you may not be relevant for others. So please do not advocate the same on your Facebook Post.

  1. Preference for State(s)

Completely irrelevant for any parent. Unless you are conscious of time and money spent in visiting an adoption agency in a far-away land, choosing a home state or a neighboring state is in no way going to assure you that you may get a child similar to your demographic profile. If you have limited resources, CARA should be asking if you need help in accessing the child in a remote location – than encouraging discriminatory indulgence in North vs South, Bengali vs. Marathi or Fair vs. Dark comparisons – which are the common reasons for choosing a given State. Which, very few of us may want to admit in an open forum, but as a practitioner it is so very easy to spot the head fakes, though.

Of course, there are statistics of children available across States which of late have been used by parents in marking their preferences. But using these numbers is like flying a plane without knowing its controls. Choosing to adopt from Maharashtra was most fashionable before Odisha appeared on the scene. Telangana and Andhra closely followed suite. In last 8 months, I have seen parents switching their preferences like disco lights back stage – creating more noise in the system than helping themselves or anyone else. Many do not even understand How CARA Wait list works – and are pressing buttons on the dashboard – as if playing a video game.

What very few counsellors are telling parents – and what very few parents are listening, even if counsellors are telling them – is that their decision to adopt a child from State A cannot be driven by the number of children available for adoption in that State. Because, there is so much more to adopting a child from a given State. Given the diversity in India, the child carries its genetics, personality, eating habits, immunity, growth potential etc. directly influenced by the region where it was born, placed and cared for. Ignoring all these facets and signing up to adopt a child from, say Bihar, without even knowing what adopting from Bihar means – is playing blind. I would rather recommend not to choose Bihar, than choose Bihar without a reason.  And the reason lies within. Look for yourself. Are you ready and capable to support a child from a chosen State? You should choose a State only if you have visibility into that State’s impact on adoption – else avoid preferring a State without a rationale.

2nd State / 3rd State – These two are the silliest choices I have ever come across. By this time I start feeling as if the parents are signing up to receive admission in a University of their choice – rather than registering to adopt a child. If there are 33 States in India, and a computer program has to generate a referral, then why stop at 3 – let the machine run its processors matching referrals across all 33 States – to give the best to parents. But it cannot. The moment you go beyond the 1st state, you have already misguided the parent.

So parents, stop asking this question from your counsellors, social workers or Facebook Groups, on what your choices need to be. Even Brahma cannot answer that In fact Brahma never wanted to answer that.

Practitioner’s Word: Prepare yourself to love and accept the child and go for Anywhere in India. Remember, you too are from “anywhere in India” for the child and the child is not judging you!

 

  1. Gender (Boy or Girl)

Check this option If you want to avail perhaps the only privilege in adoption. You get to choose the gender of your prospective child. But be honest. You are only catering to your ego, desire or constraint. And be confident to present yourself as such when the child asks you – why did you adopt “me”. For those who do not want to feel Like God, but feel godliness, go Bungee Jumping. Accept what comes to you. Get closer to being a natural parent in enjoying the suspense.

You may redeem your points when adopting a second time around. Privilege granted – as a member of the esteemed adoption club. Wanna go spiritual – go bungee jumping yet again!

Practitioner’s Word: Go for a specific Gender only if you cannot live without that boy or a girl in your life. Else, let yourself free, and allow a child to “choose” you too – through wands of destiny.

 

  1. Age

This is the Achilles Heal of adoption in India and offers unprecedented bias when compared with any other domain or facet of Indian life. There are roughly 18,000 parents registered for adoption in India. Almost 80% of them want a healthy child below 2 years of age. (Two Years of age – because that is the youngest category at CARA. If CARA today publishes a lowest slab for 6 months or 1 year, 99% of parents would opt for that). There are fewer than 2,000 children available for adoption by CARA. Less than 150 of them would fall in this category. Almost 14000 parents chasing 140 plus kids is an impossible 1% target – worse than the competition for the most coveted colleges in India, and parents are squarely responsible for this widening gap with everyone only wanting to adopt a healthy child below 2 years of age. Actually, no one ever seeks counselling on this front. This is considered given and non-negotiable. Counselling is sought on how to get a child in this category in least possible time.

There have been cases where parents are not even eligible to adopt a younger child, but upload fraudulent documentation to make it happen. There are cases where parents are eligible, but not suitable to adopt a younger child. And both have suffered. All because Bollywood has taught us to adopt only infants, obviate the need to ever tell them about adoption, and of course that children bond like Feviquick, when they are young!

If at all, there is counselling required – it is on this preference. CARA should actually reclassify the 0-2 yrs age category as a constraint, in the given scenario, and indeed offer incentives for parents preferring to adopt children above 2 years of age.

Practitioner’s Word: Look beyond your need and myths related to adopting an infant. Rather, indicate your preference for the age and kind of child that you can support and enable realizing their potential.

 

  1. Category (Single or Sibling)

Most parents go right here and there is little room for correction. Parents should opt for siblings only when they are confident that they are capable of supporting multiple children at the same time. When opting for siblings, be prepared to come across profiles of siblings who may be same gender, young or old, healthy or sick, twin or few years apart etc.

There however exists one simple request – if you indeed are capable of supporting siblings, please prefer them – for our lawmakers have recently erred in directing siblings to be separated for adoption, as most parents prefer to adopt a single child. At least sequentially. The outcome of such a policy decision is catastrophic. Interestingly, the same Minister advocates adoption of cats in pairs – than singles – because cats tend to get distressed. It is time, we as a responsible community do our bit in foiling such illogical and sinister policy decisions.

Announcing your preference for a sibling is akin to announcing yourselves as a Doctor on a flight. Somebody who needs your help could lose his life with your silence.

Practitioner’s Word: Judge for yourselves and opt for single or siblings as per your capability. There is nothing to prove here, either ways.

 

  1. Health (Normal or Special Need)

This too is a foregone conclusion, and like the category of siblings, best left to the judgement of the parent. While most parents aspire for a healthy child, and rightly so, some parents are capable in supporting a child with a specific need. So go beyond the majority vote and do what clicks for you.

There is a piece of advice, though, for parents seeking healthy children. Do peep into the profile of children with special needs, once your home study is approved into the system. You will be surprised to discover many such profiles of children, who may not have been classified as perfectly healthy – but are clubbed into the catch all category of Special Need – for want of a better process at CARA. These are perfectly healthy children, with some medical intervention required for a correctable situation, like a pre-term baby, some impairments in vision, speech or hearing that can be rectified or any other addressable condition. Accepting a child from this category doe not affect your wait time in the normal category, and does not impact your seniority, should you not decide to proceed with adoption of a profile picked from this category.

Practitioner’s Word: Keep you options open and skim profiles across categories. You never know when and where your child may find you!

Adoption is a spiritual experience. It goes beyond the transactions of registering at CARA, marking our choices, getting a referral and bringing a baby home. It is about discovering our hidden capabilities, developing unprecedented parenting skills, liberating ourselves from bondage of caste, color & creed, learning a new language and embracing a new high in life. Let us redefine the system – not be crippled by the system.

We need to Reimagine Relationships. Reimagine Love.

Reimagine Adoption.