New Delhi, June 2: Couples of Indian origin who live abroad will be treated on a par with Indians living in India if they want to adopt a child from the country.
The decision by new women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi will simplify the adoption process for non-resident Indians, overseas citizens of India, and persons of Indian origin.
The idea is to shorten the growing list of children waiting to be adopted at India’s orphanages and that of couples waiting to adopt them.
Under a 2011 guideline, in-country adoptions received an 80 per cent preference. The objective was to curb overseas child trafficking in the garb of adoption. The adoption agencies were under pressure to stick to the 80:20 ratio.
But this led to a fall in overseas adoptions, from 628 in 2010-11 to 430 in 2013-2014.
Some Indian adoptive parents welcomed the latest move.
“Most often, those children who have been repeatedly rejected by Indian families are adopted by NRIs and foreign nationals,” said Suresh Rishi, who has adopted a child with a hole in his heart.
“Physically challenged children or those with medical problems such as a hare lip or a hole in the heart are rarely adopted in India. Multiple siblings (whom adoption agencies don’t want to separate) and children above the age of three face the same problem. For these kids, this is a good thing.”
A senior ministry official cited a different kind of example.
“Often, a relative wants to adopt a child and take her abroad. The latest guidelines have been issued to ensure we don’t create roadblocks for such adoptions,” the official said.
The new guidelines apply not just to relatives, of course. The key reform will be the scrapping of the 80:20 ratio but it isn’t clear whether the verification of the applicant couples’ bona fides would be eased.
Following a prod by Maneka, the Central Adoption Research Agency (Cara), the central government’s nodal adoption agency, is working on a draft.
“There’s a need to modernise the guidelines and ensure that when someone wants to adopt a child, he or she doesn’t face roadblocks. Agencies that do not follow the guidelines will be de-recognised,” Maneka said.
Speeding up the adoption process would be another focus area. The new guidelines may goad the adoption agencies into pulling up their socks by stipulating that no child should remain in an adoption home more than 100 days after being declared legally free for adoption by the district child welfare committee.
To minimise legal bottlenecks, Maneka plans to write to all chief justices and district courts to speed up the process.
All the child welfare committees too will be told not to delay the clearance certificates for the children.
Maneka has said that adoption agencies would be blacklisted if they fail to update and upload information on the children with them on CARINGS, the national database for adoption on the ministry website.
Adoption agencies that work on the ground — as intermediaries between the applicant couples and the adoption homes that shelter the children — can function only if they have a certificate from Cara.
Maneka’s ministry is working to give Cara the status of a statutory body in line with the National Commission for Women and the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, which were formed by acts of Parliament.