Help pours in from foreign shores for special kids

Priyanka Dasgupta,TNN | Sep 28, 2015, 01.25 AM IST

KOLKATA: Raju Biswas drives a car and sells livestock in Thakurpukur. Four years ago, he came to know that his sister Julia Suja Gardefaldt, who was adopted by a Swedish couple some 20 years ago, had wanted to get in touch with the family. Back then, Raju knew that her sister (whom he refers to as Suja and who some claim to have intellectual disability) was well settled with her adoptive parents in Sweden.

But, Raju is now upset that even after adoption, Suja had to struggle with her adoptive parent’s estrangement. In a larger context, it has also raised a debate on adoption of children with special needs in and from India.

According to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (Cara), 190 children with special needs were adopted in 2012-13. This number rose to 283 and 253 in the next two years respectively. Dr Aloma Lobo, former chairperson of Cara, has three adopted children among her six kids. One of them is a child with special needs.

“Very often, children adopted by couples who reside abroad usually have a medical or genetic condition or have a mild physical challenge or belong to a sibling group or are older than five years,” she says.

Even HIV+ children are now being adopted from India. “Last year, I facilitated adoption of a five-year-old HIV+ girl by an American couple. Another American couple is in the process of adopting an HIV+ child,” says executive director of Bal Asha Trust Sunil Arora.

Saroj Sood, founder of Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption, has also assisted the adoption process of HIV+ child from Kolkata to Sweden.

However, Indian parents will take a long time to adopt HIV+ children, says an adoption expert.

Sood says foreigners are keener to adopt children with special needs, “We have placed a child with a special need in Assam. The problem with Indian adoptive parents wanting to accept kids with special needs is that most couples here still want to pass off their children as biological kids. In their quest for having the perfect kid, they are less likely to adopt children with special needs. But, we have placed many children with thalassemia with couples abroad. Even visually impaired children or those with one arm or leg missing have been adopted abroad.”

India-born German national Arun Dohle, who is the executive director of ACT (Against Child Trafficking), assists adult adoptees to reconnect with their biological families. After 17 years of search and seven years of litigation, Arun had been reunited with his biological mother in Pune in 2010. On being asked about the trend of adopting children with special needs in India, Arun says, “The agencies spread the myth that Indians aren’t willing to adopt children with special needs. So, they claim that inter-country adoption needs to be fast-tracked for special kids.” Adoption agencies, however, don’t agree with this. In September this year, 20-month-old Sakhi was adopted by an Italian couple. She was born with a cleft lip.

“I had assisted in Sakhi’s adoption and she is the fifth such child with special need to be adopted abroad from Nashik. In January this year, I assisted the adoption a nine-month-old child with orthopedic problems. Sometime ago, a Mumbai cardiologist had adopted a girl who had undergone a heart surgery. Two months ago, an NRI couple where the father was Indian adopted an 11-year-old girl who was a hepatitis carrier with albino. Medical insurance, availability of health facilities, professional support, social sensitivity and family support are more available abroad than in India,” says Arora.