“Adoption carries the added dimension of connection not only to your own tribe but beyond, widening the scope of what constitutes love, ties, and family. It is the larger embrace”. — Isabella Rossellini
By definition, adoption is the action or fact of legally taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own, or the fact of being adopted. In any given society, we see a huge imbalance amongst couples, spinsters and bachelors that have the resources of taking care of another life or more, in terms of adoption but are too reluctant to do so because of varied reasons. One of the reasons could perhaps be that there has never been enough discussion on such initiatives in our day-to-day lives and or encouragement from the society or community that we belong to. I am not sure if it is a subject of a talk in the churches and educational institutions!
Adoption, by and large, is still a concept that the masses are aware of it because they have heard of the term being used elsewhere and never beyond, except for those who studied it. In such a scenario, one (couples, spinsters and bachelors) is never bold enough to tread that path . . . not certain if the family would approve of it or if the society would remain indifferent towards them. However, a thing which was once considered a taboo in our country and region is slowly experiencing a change in people’s mindset as awareness around adoption has increased manifold. According to the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), the adoption statistics for 2018-2019 (April 2018 to March 2019) includes 3374 in-country adoption and 653 inter-country adoption.
The Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act, enacted in 1851, is widely considered the first “modern” adoption law and it has been a reformed way back in 1800. Over the years, we have witnessed many success stories of adoption and or adopted children. In India, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India. It functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions. CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by the Government of India in 2003. CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies (CARA, 2020).
Some of the key requirements for adoption highlighted in CARA is to register on their website, after which, a home study will be conducted by a social worker and once it is approved and uploaded, the adoptive parents become eligible to receive a referral. When a child is ready for adoption, the agency will share medical reports of physical examination and other relevant information with the parent(s). They will also allow them to spend time with the child and after the adoption; the agency keeps a check for one to two years. Depending on the parent(s) age, gender and state of the child, one will get their first referral. Prospective parents opting for adoption are not allowed to pick and choose children. They can only accept or reject the child offered by the national adoption body. This new rule came into force from May 1, 2017. When it comes to a married couple, they need to have at least two years of a stable marital relationship for them to adopt any child. Single people must be at least 21 years of age and no older than 45 years. In case single parents are considering adopting an older child, they can be up to 55 years of age.
The parents who have taken the decision to adopt are required to be physically, mentally and emotionally stable and must also be financially capable and should not have any life-threatening medical condition. Irrespective of the marital status, and whether or not the prospective adoptive parent has a biological son/daughter, he/she can still adopt a child. In the case of a married couple, the consent of both parents is required. The Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2015 issued in the CARA Guidelines, which permits a single woman/man to adopt a child and in the recent past, we have witnessed some of our popular celebrities who have chosen adoption. What is happy to note is that adoption is no more restricted to married couples only but the law has widened its reach to such children.
However, the question still remains with regard to the big gap of childless couples, spinsters and bachelors in proportion to the increasing number of orphans. The underlying reason could be the mental block that we have towards making someone not known to us, to be a part of our lives. Although the reasons behind adoption can vary from parent to parent and from one community to another, it is often about how one can change the life of an adopted child for his/her betterment and future, that matters. Doug Chapman is of the opinion, “If you have the heart for adoption, do not let fear stand in the way”. The hesitation is very much there and perhaps we would need another revolution for all of us to have open minds and open hearts towards adoption.
While screening 2018-2019 data, State-wise and Gender-wise Adoption Data (In-country), the highest number of adoption is seen in Maharashtra with a total of 695 adoptions – 305 males and 390 females and the lowest in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur with a total of 4 adoptions in each State. Meghalaya has a total of 25 adoptions – 8 males and 17 females. Interestingly, Deepak Kumar, CEO, CARA, says the number of single women registering for adoption has been increasing in the past few years. “Right now we have a few hundred registered with us. This was an idea of the honourable minister (women and child development minister Ms Maneka Gandhi). He further stated “financially able, 40-plus single women will be given preference over others in the adoption process. We just want to see how we can help single women over 40 with this process”. The trend is changing and the individual’s effort to reach out and make a difference is making noise.
In a larger picture, the 2019 data revealed that more girls were adopted than boys. In fact, nearly 60 per cent of children adopted in the last six years were girls across the States in India. The State that led the pack was Maharashtra, closely followed by Karnataka. Amongst many reasons “One reason might be cultural acceptance. You no longer feel like you need a son to carry on the vansha – or perhaps, you already have a son. Another reason could definitely be greater gender sensitisation since information is being disseminated on the ground against female foeticide and sex determination tests. However, yet another possible reason could be that more girls are being adopted because there are no girls available due to said tests” (Bhattacheryya, 2019).
One of the very common thoughts that go around when we discuss adoption is the uncertainty of how the kids we have adopted will take care of us when we grow old. Well, adoption is not an investment scheme and we should not let such thoughts sabotage our intent. Coming to think of it, there is no guarantee of how our own kids will take care of us when we are old. If our thoughts go in that line, then sadly we are merely looking at our children as investments for our old age and not otherwise.
My salute goes to those couples who despite having their own children, still take an extra step to adopt another. Adoption, they say, is another word for ‘Love”. I am sure it is because, beyond the financial aspect, there is sharing of celestial love, concern, time and emotions that go into the upbringing of these precious souls. All we need to do is speak about it more than often. In the words of Nicole Kidman, who herself adopted a son and a daughter once said: “Somehow destiny comes into play. These children end up with you and you end up with them. It’s something quite magical”. (The writer can be reached at [email protected])