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Supreme Court’s Directions on Adoption Process in India

Context:

The Supreme Court of India in a recent hearing of a petition filed by a Non-governmental Organization(NGO), has issued a series of directions to the Centre, the States, and the Union Territories to expedite and simplify the adoption process in the country.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Supreme Court’s Directives on Adoption Process
  2. About the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)
  3. Benefits of Adoption for Children and Society
  4. Adoption Trends and Statistics in India
  5. Challenges Related to Adoption in India

Supreme Court’s Directives on Adoption Process

  • Identification of Children:
    • Children in Child Care Institutions (CCIs) with parents not visiting for over a year or having unfit parents should be identified.
  • Definition of “Unfit Guardian”:
    • An unfit guardian includes those unable or unwilling for parenting, involved in substance abuse, alcohol abuse, child abuse, neglect, having a criminal record, needing care themselves, or being mentally unsound.
  • Bi-Monthly Drives:
    • States and Union Territories should conduct bi-monthly drives to identify orphaned, abandoned, or surrendered (OAS) children in CCIs.
  • Data Compilation:
    • States and Union Territories must compile data on potential adoptable children, especially those in CCIs, and provide details to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) and the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Registration on CARINGS Portal:
    • States should ensure the registration of all OAS children in the district on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS) portal, the online platform for adoption in India.

About the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA):

  • CARA is a statutory body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
Role as Central Authority:
  • Designated as the Central Authority for handling inter-country adoptions in line with the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by India in 2003.
Functions:
  • Nodal body regulating the adoption of “orphaned, surrendered, and abandoned children” in India.
  • Monitors and regulates entities such as State Adoption Resource Agencies (SARAs), Specialized Adoption Agencies (SAAs), Authorized Foreign Adoption Agencies (AFAAs), Child Welfare Committees (CWCs), and District Child Protective Units (DPUs).
Legal Framework in India:
  • Child placement with a family is governed by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956; the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890; and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
  • Mandatory registration of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) and linking to CARA is outlined in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption:

  • The Convention establishes safeguards for children and families involved in inter-country adoptions.
  • Aims to prevent the illegal abduction, sale, or trafficking of children during adoptions.
  • Objectives:
  • Protect children and families from illegal or ill-prepared inter-country adoptions.
  • Prevent abduction, sale, or trafficking of children.
  • Establish minimum standards while recognizing that it does not serve as a uniform law of adoption.

Benefits of Adoption for Children and Society

  • Loving and Stable Family Environment:
    • Adoption provides children deprived of parental care with a loving and stable family environment.
  • Holistic Development and Well-being:
    • Ensures the holistic development and well-being of adopted children, addressing their physical, mental, emotional, social, and educational needs.
  • Social and Economic Contribution:
    • Contributes to the social and economic development of the country by:
      • Reducing the burden on the state and society in caring for orphaned, abandoned, or surrendered children.
      • Empowering adopted children to become productive and responsible citizens.
  • Positive Adoption Culture:
    • Cultivates a positive adoption culture in society by:
      • Breaking down social stigmas associated with adoption.
      • Raising awareness about the numerous benefits of adoption.
  • Empowerment of Children:
    • Empowers children through adoption, providing them with opportunities for growth, education, and a brighter future.
  • Family and Community Support:
    • Strengthens the fabric of families and communities by fostering support networks around adopted children.
  • Diversity and Inclusion:
    • Promotes diversity and inclusion by creating families that embrace children from different backgrounds, cultures, and communities.
  • Fulfillment of Parental Desires:
    • Allows prospective adoptive parents to fulfill their desires of parenthood, creating a positive impact on their lives.
  • Humanitarian and Compassionate Act:
    • Reflects a humanitarian and compassionate act, demonstrating the potential for positive change through acts of care and kindness.
  • Lifetime Bonds and Relationships:
    • Builds lifetime bonds and relationships between adoptive parents and children, fostering love, support, and a sense of belonging.

Adoption Trends and Statistics in India

  • Annual Adoption Figures:
    • Approximately 4,000 child adoptions occur annually in India, according to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
  • Orphan Population:
    • As of 2021, there are over 3 Crore orphans in the country.
  • Adoption Mismatch:
    • There is a significant mismatch between the number of children available for legal adoption and prospective adoptive parents (PAPs).
  • CARA’s Data (October 2023):
    • 2,146 children were available for adoption.
    • 30,669 PAPs have been registered for in-country adoption.
  • Waiting Period for PAPs:
    • PAPs face a waiting period of three to four years to adopt a healthy and young child due to the imbalance between registered PAPs and available children.
  • Age Preferences of PAPs:
    • 69.4% of registered PAPs prefer children aged zero to two years.
    • 10.3% prefer children aged two to four years.
    • 14.8% prefer children aged four to six years.
  • Specialised Adoption Agencies (SAAs):
    • Out of 760 districts in India, only 390 districts have Specialised Adoption Agencies.

Challenges Related to Adoption in India

Complex Adoption Process:

  • Adoption in India, governed by multiple laws, involves intricate steps, including registration, home study, child referral, matching, acceptance, pre-adoption foster care, court order, and follow-up.

Extended Timeline:

  • Factors like child availability, parental preferences, administrative efficiency, and legal formalities contribute to the prolonged duration of the adoption process.

Child Returns and Challenges:

  • An unusual upsurge in child returns, particularly affecting girls, those with special needs, and older children, raises concerns.
  • Disabled and older children face extended adjustment periods, compounded by inadequate preparation and counselling during the transition.

Decline in Adoption of Special Needs Children:

  • Only 40 children with disabilities were adopted between 2018 and 2019, representing approximately 1% of total adoptions.
  • Annual trends indicate a decline in domestic adoptions of children with special needs, revealing a disparity in adoption patterns.

Illegal Adoption Activities:

  • The diminishing pool of adoptable children contributes to an increase in illegal adoption activities.
  • Threats of child trafficking, especially during the pandemic, raise ethical and legal concerns, impacting poor or marginalized families.

Legal Recognition for LGBTQ+ Families:

  • Legal challenges for LGBTQ+ families seeking adoption hinder their ability to become adoptive parents, leading to an increase in illegal adoptions within the queer community.

Social Stigma and Limited Awareness:

  • Social stigma surrounding adoption, particularly for certain demographics, affects adoption rates.
  • Limited awareness about the adoption process contributes to misconceptions and creates barriers for prospective adoptive parents.

Corruption and Legal Disputes:

  • Instances of corruption within the adoption process compromise its integrity.
  • Legal disputes and litigation further slow down adoption proceedings, adding to the complexities of the overall process.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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