‘Adoption agencies in Maharashtra give foreigners, NRIs preference over Indians’

Aug 13, 2013, 06.51AM IST TNN[ Neha Madaan ]

PUNE: Adoption agencies in the state currently have 1,100 Indian prospective adoptive parents on their waiting list, but recent investigations have revealed that they are busy processing applications of foreigners and NRIs.

The Maharashtra State Child Protection Society (MSCPS) carried out investigations how adoption requests were being processed across the state’s 70 specialized adoption agencies, of which 24 are licensed to process international adoptions. They found agencies giving preference to the more profitable international adoptions, keeping Indian applicants on hold. Sources said agencies charge US $ 5000 from adoptive parents living abroad (NRIs and foreigners) as against the Rs 40,000 that Indian prospective parents are charged.

Investigations have also shown that children from adoption agencies that are not licensed to undertake international adoptions send children to the licensed ones for inter-country adoptions, the official said. In addition, data showed that around 1,200 children are there in these specialized adoption agencies, of which 500 are legally free to be adopted.

As per the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) guidelines adoption within the country with Indian parents should be given preference over inter-country adoptions. But officials from the women and child development department said that on average, every 9 out of 10 dossiers presented to the adoption recommendation committee (ARC) show that no efforts had been made by these specialised adoption agencies for in-country adoptions. “The agency has to show in the dossier the number of Indian parents the child has been suggested to for adoption. As per preliminary information on the basis of the list of names and details of parents on the waiting list and when they registered, we have found that in many cases, Indian parents are made to wait much longer than foreign parents,” said an official.

The ARC has now started reviewing each specialised adoption agency and cases submitted to it for inter-country adoption purpose. The committee is making it mandatory for these agencies to follow the rules on giving preference to Indian waiting parents.

As per the old CARA guidelines, the ratio of children given for in-country and inter-country adoption was 50:50. The amended guidelines had changed it to 80:20 respectively (80 for in-country and 20 for inter-country). While a minimum 80% ratio for in-country should be maintained as per the rule book, the guidelines state that children even from the 20% quota should be first referred for in-country adoptions.

Officials said they found in their investigations that although hundreds of Indian children had been adopted by foreign nationals over the last few years, none of the agencies had done the mandatory follow up on these children sent abroad. “A follow up report on each child given for international adoption should be submitted by the special adoption agency to State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA). We have now directed all the 65 such agencies in the state to submit to SARA a follow up report on each such child in the next seven days, so that the wellbeing of such children becomes known to authorities,” he said.

Adoption agencies giving preference to inter-country adoptions has apparently been a contentious issue for long. Bharti Ali, co-director, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, said she was part committee that was set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to review the CARA Guidelines and help finalise the new guidelines and was witness to negotiations between NGO members of the drafting committee on domestic versus foreign adoption ratio. “Initially we were very happy to hear the secretary propose a 60:40 ratio as against the 50:50 ratio that existed then. The secretary then proposed a 70:30 ratio. We realized only later that the 70% domestic adoptions would include NRI adoptions,” Ali said.

She added that while NRIs adopting from India are treated as foreigners when it comes to the fee charged, but on paper these adoptions are shown as domestic because they are Indian parents. “Adoption agencies keep children on hold to give them away to NRI couples and foreigners, while Indian parents living in India have to wait many years to get a child. On record, since we see all NRI adoptions as domestic adoption, we feel there is an improvement and fewer children are being sent out of the country. But, the records need to be verified,” said Ali.

Ali said there is no record with CARA and the on ministry state-wise and agency-wise data number of children available for adoption and number of Indian, NRI and foreigner parents in waiting. “However, such data is never made available even through RTI. In an RTI filed by HAQ, CARA replied that they do not maintain such information,” she said.

Ali further added that such a database would show the way these adoption agencies operate. “It would clearly reveal how Indian parents are kept waiting for years when children are readily available. The wait is actually for the NRI these days, who will pay more and be treated as domestic adoption on record,” she said.

They also added that though hundreds of Indian children have been adopted by foreign nationals over the last few years, none of these agencies in the state has done the mandatory follow up on these children sent abroad.

Adoption agency’s role

In order to facilitate the placement of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children in adoption, the state government recognizes one or more of its childcare institutions or voluntary organizations in each district as Specialised Adoption Agency (SAA) for placing children in in-country adoption. One of the roles of an SSA is to prepare individual care plans for each child following the principle of the best interest of the child and in preparing the individual care plan, the care options in the following order of preferences is: (i) restoration efforts and preserving the biological family; (ii) In-country adoption; (iii) Inter-country Adoption; (iv) Other non-institutional Care and (v) Institutional Care.