19 Mar 2010, 1232
Over the last few days TIMES NOW has been bringing you a series of investigative reports on the rampant ‘sale’ of poor Indian children to foreign couples. For the Rollings of Australia, it was a shocker when they discovered eight years after they adopted 2 Indian children that they had been ‘sold’ by their father without their biological mother’s consent. What followed was a fight for justice in which the courageous adoptive parents wrote to Indian authorities to take action against those guilty, and chose to reunite their Indian children with their birth mother and her family.
The first time Julia Rollings met her two youngest adopted children, Akhil and Sabila, were when they were in the care of the Madras Social Service Guild Orphanage. “We heard of Malaysian Social Services agency because it was an agency in India that was approved by the Indian government and I knew that there were families in New South Wales that had adopted children from there,” she recalls. In mid-1997 MASOS told the Rollings that a three-year-old boy and his two-year-old sister were put up for adoption five months earlier, in October 1996, as their ‘terminally ill parents’ were unable to take care of them. They said the children were born in Vaniyambadi, a 4-hour drive from Chennai, and that they were brought to the agency for adoption by an agent, who was approached by the children’s parents, Sunama and Imam’. In August 1998, after the paperwork and formalities, Julia finally flew home with Akhil and Sabila. The children were given a new lease of life, but the fairy tale did not last long. Eight years later the couple was stunned to read an internet article saying a member of the staff of Madras Social Service Guild Orphanage had been arrested on charges of kidnapping. “Early 2006 we heard that the director of the children’s orphanage of MASOS had been arrested in an unrelated case. Because this was the second case that we had heard of involving MASOS we were very concerned and realised we had to look into our own children’s history,” she says. The Rollings finally tracked down Akhil and Sabila’s mother Sunama, and she confirmed their worst fears. “‘They (neighbours) were the ones who first told us the children were sold by their father for 50 Australian dollars to a stranger on the streets of Chennai, while their mother slept,” recounts Rolling. The children were sold to a child trafficker who then through various means arranged for them to be adopted through what was thought to be a legitimate agency (MASOS).
Both the adoption agency and the orphanage in Chennai had their inter-country adoption licenses suspended in 1999 after the revelations that they were implicated in child trafficking, but were later re-licensed. MASOS had not processed any adoptions after year 2000. The Rollings know that they were misled by the adoption agency, and gravely. The consent forms carry the signature of the children’s biological mother – however Sunama insists her signature was forged as at the time she did not know how to read and write. The document also claims Sunama was unwell and had relinquished all her rights to Akhil and Sabila, stating falsely that the natural mother was 26 years old. However, in reality Sunama was only 19 when her children were stolen from her. Though the truth was bitter, the Rollings want to bring it out in the open. “Somewhere along the way somebody has to be held accountable for investigating this and putting a stop to it, and that surely must rest with CARA (Central Adoption Resources Agency) and the Indian government,” says Barry Rollings. Since learning the true plight of her two children, Julia Rollings has ensured they have contact with their natural mother and she says she feels a moral responsibility to assist the birth family. The Rollings have regular contact with them with the assistance of a trusted friend in India. “I am delighted that my son and daughter have coped incredibly well with the grief and distress of their difficult situation, and they are both unequivocal in their support of our decision to uncover their history,” Julia has written in an adoption resources website. The Rollings have ensured that their children now visit Chennai and spend time with Sunama whenever they get to travel abroad. They say they are committed to continue regular contact and frequent visits with this family they now consider part of our own. Meanwhile the couple continues to call for a CBI investigation into their son and daughter’s story. The case is still pending with the Madras High Court and the family’s fight for justice continues. Though the orphanage’s name has come up in several adoption scams, sadly no action has ever been taken against it.
When TIMES NOW tracked down MASOS’s owner Velandi Thangavel, he claimed that Sunama had come with her husband to the home to entrust their babies to their care. “We gave away the children for adoption only after the waiting period according to Government rules. The mother must claim the baby within three months. Sunama is trying to save her face by saying that her husband gave her children without her consent. If she was a real mother why did she wait for so many years?” he defended. Since their case surfaced there have been several other cases where it is alleged that other children in India were kidnapped and then adopted by unsuspecting Australian families, leading the Australian government to put a freeze on adoptions through agencies where there is doubt. Australia is a signatory to the Hague Convention aimed at ending abduction, sale and trafficking of children. India became a signatory in 2003 after the alleged abductions occurred. Akhil and Sabila’s story may have had a happy ending, but the men responsible for tragic separation of these children from their mother are still walking free and unrepentant.