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Kid in US foster care, grandpa waits

New Delhi, Jan. 17: Nirmal Saha waits every day for a phone call from America that would tell him his grandchild is coming back to him.

The 72-year-old has been waiting for four months now.

In September 2012, Saha’s grandson, Indrashish, was taken away from his parents, Pamela and IBM engineer Debashish, by child protection authorities, who accused the couple from Balurghat, South Dinajpur, of negligence.

According to the complaint by the child protective services, the toddler had Shaken Baby Syndrome, or SBS, from which doctors infer intentional shaking.

Indrashish, then 11 months old, has been in state-paid foster care since.

Advocate Suranya Aiyar, who today submitted a petition to the US ambassador for the kid’s repatriation to his relatives, said four months ago Delhi had sent a request to Washington to send the child to his grandparents. “They said they needed a report on the fitness status of the grandparents, which was also sent to them,” Aiyar said.

But nothing has happened and Saha is obviously tense. “They tell me if the US authorities keep him for a year, they will have the right to put him up for adoption,” he says. “How will we get him back then?”

Debashish and Pamela had been barely three weeks in America when Indrashish fell from a 3ft-high bed. They rushed him to a hospital where the authorities said the kid’s injuries were too serious to have been caused by a single fall and informed child protection officials.

A New Jersey court found the parents negligent and directed the government to take custody of the baby, who was later put in foster care.

Saha says his grandson has been repeatedly injured and suffered medical emergencies in foster care. In November, he was wounded in the lower lip in what was claimed to be an accident. On December 31, he had to be hospitalised for extreme dehydration.

For the kid’s parents, it has been a tough fight with escalating legal costs. The case has had two hearings, and the next is in March. Tomorrow they are due to meet New Jersey’s child protective services to discuss the repatriation.

For now, the couple have the right to visit their child only on Fridays, for two hours.

“Under US law, repatriation of foreign minors in Indrashish’s position is permitted. New Jersey law requires child protection authorities to permit a family placement for children where possible in preference to leaving them in foster care,” Aiyar says.

Aiyar, CPM leader Brinda Karat, retired high court chief justices A.P. Shah and Mukul Mudgal and several activists today submitted the plea to the US ambassador demanding a firm date by which Indrashish would be repatriated.

“If my son and daughter-in-law have been negligent, the US government can punish them,” Saha says. “Why keep an innocent child away from his family?”