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Delhi HC slams Central Adoption Agency, blames it for low adoption rates

Vishakh Unnikrishnan | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:42 IST
The situation
  • The number of children being adopted in India is falling
  • The Delhi High Court has blamed the central agency for the falling number of adoptions
  • The court was hearing the case of a couple who had applied to adopt a child six years ago
The problems
  • Too much paperwork
  • Indians don\'t adopt children with disabilities, unlike foreigners
  • At the last count, only 1,500 kids were registered for adoption

On Monday, 20 July 2016, the Delhi High Court pulled up the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) for abysmally low adoption rates in the country. "The popular belief is that adopting a child will not change the world; but for the child, the world changes. However, the pace at which our statutory authorities process an application for adoption, shows that they believe only in the first part of the statement, namely, that adopting a child will not change the world."

The court was hearing a Canadian couple's case who wanted to adopt a girl from Punjab but were unable to do so. To adopt the child the couple needed a No-Objection Certificate from CARA. The agency kept denying them the certificate for six years.

Eventually, CARA cited the Amended Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 2015 to to deny the couple the certificate. Under the Amended JJ Act, it is illegal for foreigners to adopt a child without a valid court order.

On Monday, while hearing the couple's plea, the court directed CARA to immediately grant the required certificates to the couple. And further directed the Ministry of External Affairs to issue a passport for the child within two weeks of certificates being issued, ensuring the adoption process becomes smoother.

In the last five years, adoptions in India have fallen by 50%, according to official records

The court also held that in cases of adoption where biological parents are themselves willing to give the child up for adoption, the JJ Act of 2015 does not apply as it only concerns orphans and the abandoned.

The couple had applied for adoption when the child was 10. She is now close being an adult and is 16-years-old.

The court concluded that CARA had not been doing its job and slammed the authority for the low adoption rates in the country. And directed CARA to ensure the those interested in adopting do not go through any sort of harassment.

Adoption rates

The number of adoptions in India are disconcerting. According to official records, in the last five years, adoptions have fallen by 50%.

Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, in the annual meet last year had said "the idleness and the deliberate lying" of adoption agencies in India were responsible for fewer children being adopted in India and that it was shameful that the numbers are so low.

In 2012-13 4,694 children were adopted within India, while 308 children were adopted in inter-country adoptions. By 2015, the number stood at 3,011 children being adopted within India and 666 children were adopted in inter-country adoptions.

Moreover, CARA has a ridiculously low number of children registered for adoption - 1,500. Many, even among them would not be fortunate enough to find a home.

The only encouraging statistic is that girls are adopted more than boys. Between April to June 2015, child adoption centers across India received 1,241 requests to adopt girls as against 718 for boys. Various social workers in the national capital say the thriving illegal adoption industry, which law enforcement agencies haven't cracked down upon, is the reason behind the low official numbers.

"The idleness and the deliberate lying" of agencies responsible for low adoptions: Maneka Gandhi

What makes things worse is that hundreds of kids with disabilities do not get adopted. "No child with a disability has any chance of getting adopted," says a CARA official who wish to not be named. Over 10,000 parents are in the waiting list for a child but none of them wish to adopt a disabled child, the officials says. Officials from various resource agencies corroborate the claim.

Aloma Lobo, member of the Karnataka state adoption resource agency says "It is not just children with disabilities or older children but even those with siblings fail to find a home." Most parents prefer children of two years or lower,say officials from CARA.

Ironicially, foreigners favour or do not mind the disability of the child as compared to domestic adopters, explains the CARA official. "CARA tries to favour those who willing to adopt a child with a disability and most foreigners are willing to adopt regardless of whether the child has a disability."

India is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption 1993. All adoptions in India are regulated by the central authority, CARA. Guidelines issued and enforced on1 August 2015 makes it mandatory for applications to be registered online with CARA. The authority decides from a list of prospective adoptive parents and is in charge of all paperwork.

The numbers suggest one important thing: There needs to be more sensitization and more awareness among parents. Adoption should be encouraged and the process needs to be made simpler, now more than ever.

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First published: 20 July 2016, 11:25 IST
Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom

A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Vishakh tracks stories on public policy, environment and culture. Previously at Mint, he enjoys bringing in a touch of humour to the darkest of times and hardest of stories. One word self-description: Quipster.