3,000+ couples waiting, but only 100 kids up for adoption

The pandemic has added to the woes of those keen to adopt orphaned and abandoned children
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 07:06 IST

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The 2016 film ‘Lion’ follows Saroo, who finds himself being adopted by an Australian couple after he becomes estranged from his family.
The 2016 film ‘Lion’ follows Saroo, who finds himself being adopted by an Australian couple after he becomes estranged from his family.

Adoption numbers have fallen over the past year, mainly because of new challenges created by the pandemic.

“It is not a drastic drop, but it is significant enough,” says a member of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), set up by the central government to provide protection for children in difficult circumstances.

Between March 2019 and February 2020, the adoption number in Karnataka was 273. By December 2020, adoptions had touched 168, lower than the annual average.

For two months after the pandemic broke out, between March and June last year, no child was homed, which put a strain on the agencies.

“We have the capacity to take care of 10 children, but we had to take in about 20 kids during the initial days,” she says.

An official with the State Adoption Resource Agency says adoption rates and enquiries have remained the same, but the number of children in the system has gone up over the past year. “Many people from lower-income homes have been struggling, and hence, have abandoned their children, usually six years and younger,” she says.

The drop in numbers, the ICPS member says, could be because of many reasons, including the prospective adoptive parents’ inability to travel.

“According to the guidelines set by the Central Adoption Resource Authority, prospective adoptive parents were given extensions and further grace periods to complete the procedures at their end,” she says.

Few children

Compared to the 3,026 couples waiting to take home a child, there are only about 100 children in the system in Karnataka, says the ICPS member.

“Agencies can only place children that are orphaned or abandoned, and not the children in need of care and protection (abbreviated to CNCP) placed with us,” she says, explaining the small numbers.

Of every 100, 68 are special needs children and don’t find homes easily. The others get adopted, she says.

The small numbers speak to the flawed system, says Nina Nayak, former chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and an adoptive mother of two.

State and non-state functionaries, she says, should be sensitised to identify and draw such children to adoption agencies.

State officials themselves hand such children to the custody of child care institutions or to persons in the community for long term care without intimating the nearest police station or District Child Protection Unit. This kind of ignorance makes room for child trafficking, she explains.

Today there are less than 500 specialised adoption agencies in the country, with a presence in 290 of 723 districts. Existing agencies, she says, can set up extension desks to cover neighbouring districts.

Faulty laws

Couples are also deterred by the law. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 prescribes leave of 12 weeks for adoptive mothers. However, according to the amended Act, only a woman adopting a child younger than three months gets this leave.

“Adoption should be incentivised. Apart from leave, parents should be given subsidies for both fostering and adopting. Couples who take older children and those with special needs should be allowed to do so without paying any fee,” says Nina.

Gayatri Abraham, adoption counsellor and founder of Padme Foundation, says the past year has been difficult for those who were waiting to take their child home.

Systemic problems have always existed, and the pandemic may have simply exacerbated it, she believes. Parents simply need to look inwards to find the tools to deal with the situation, she adds.

Published 09 February 2021, 18:29 IST

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