“Sir, we were living hopeless for past 15 years without a child. Now we have meaning in life with the coming of child Shivani (name changed) into our life. Our hearts are broken now that you are taking her away from us” (Adoptive Parent of Shivani)
This was one of the most difficult situations faced by Don Bosco CHILDLINE in the previous week. We received information that a family adopted a child without following proper procedures at Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram. Our team visited the place and confirmed that the family adopted a child from Kuzhithura, Tamil Nadu from an advocate (lawyer). He had handed over the child with pseudo documents; had not followed proper procedures and had recieved more than 4 lakhs from the couple. When we spoke about the procedures of adoption, what upset them most was losing the child. The adoptive mother of the child could not contain her grief. The lawyer had handed over the child providing misinformation regarding the adoption.
Adopting a child without the involvement of an authorised adoption agency is illegal. Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
Adoption connotes the establishment of a socially constructed and legally sanctified parent-child relationship between those who do not share this biologically. As a universal custom, adoption has existed across large parts of the world since ancient society times. However, cultural norms and practices related to it vary for society to society. In India, an Indian, Non Resident Indian (NRI), or a foreign citizen may adopt a child. There are specific guidelines and documentation for each group of prospective adoptive parents. A single female or a married couple can adopt a child. In India, a single male is usually not eligible to be an adoptive parent. A single man desiring to adopt a child may be eligible if he applies through a registered agency. However, he will still only be able to adopt a male child.
An adoptive parent should be medically fit and financially able to care for a child. A person wishing to adopt a child must be at least 21 years old. There is no legal upper age limit for parents but most adoptive agencies set their own benchmarks with regard to age. For a child who is less than a year old, the adoptive parents can have a maximum combined age of 90 years. Also, neither parent must be older than 45 years. In the case of adoption of older children, the age of the parents may be relaxed accordingly.
The Laws and Procedures governing adoption
The adoption procedure in India is governed by two legislations, namely, the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA), and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (GWA). Under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, Indian citizens who are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, or Buddhists are allowed to formally adopt a child. Under this act, a single parent or married couple are not permitted to adopt more than one child of the same sex. Foreign citizens, NRIs, and those Indian nationals who are Muslims, Parsis, Christians or Jews are subject to the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890. Under this act, the adoptive parent is only the guardian of the child until she reaches 18 years of age.
Foreign citizens and NRIs are supposed to formally adopt their child according to the adoption laws and procedures in the country of their residence. This must be carried out within two years of the individual becoming a child's guardian. There is also a Juvenile Justice Act of 2000, a part of which deals with adoption of children by non-Hindu parents. However, this act is applicable only to children who have been abandoned or abused and not to those children who have been voluntarily put up for adoption.
The entire adoption process takes some months to complete. However, when all the hurdles are cleared, you are ready to welcome your new child to the family. Here we have tried to list down the adoption procedure.
Prospective adoptive parents who wish to adopt a child are required to get in touch with a welfare agency that is recognized for adoption. They will talk to you in general about the process, documentations, legalities etc; and access your general preparation regarding Adoption. And prepare the documentation as advised by the social worker. Once the documentation is ready submit the same to the agency and get registered.
The social worker of the agency will then conduct a Home Study at the couple’s residence. The social worker will try to assess the couple’s parenting abilities. And they will look into applicant’s motivations, preparations, strengths and weaknesses on the issue of Adoption. This step is formulated into a report and is submitted to the honourable court.
As and when there is a child the agency will call the couple to the agency. The agency will show medical file, Physical Examination Report and other relevant information of the child. Once the couple is comfortable about the details given about the child, the agency will show the child physically. The couple can spend time with the child. Once they are comfortable enough to make a discussion they can discuss the future formalities as the rules of the agency.
Once you have identified the child, you have to sign few documents which pertain to the acceptance of the child. The documentation which the couple had submitted to the agency and the child’s documents, are sent to the lawyer for preparation of the petition. Once the petition is ready the couple will be called at the court and sign the same in presence of the court officer.
Once the couple has signed the petition they can take the child in Pre-Adoption foster care. When you take the child home do understand from the agency nursing staff that what are the feeding schedules of the child, eating, playing, sleeping, medicines (if any) & potty habits. Then, you have to attend the court hearing along with the child. This is in front of a judge (generally it’s in chamber and not an open court). Once the judge is satisfied, he will pass the order and will also mention the amount you need to invest in the child’s name.
Once you have invested the amount and the receipt is shown to the judge the order will be issued. If the adoption is under HAMA, then a Deed of Adoption is prepared and the same needs to be registered with the local registrar’s office. There is no such requirement in adoptions done under GWA & J. J. Acts.