The NR Eye: Adoption is a tear that dries on non-residents’ cheek

February 16, 2014 - 6:48:43 am

by Moiz Mannan

The resumption by Indian regulators of on-line registration of non-resident Indians (NRIs) wanting to adopt children in India is a ray of hope for prospective parents, but the task still remains uphill with a plethora of rules in place.

Hundreds of childless couples, even single parents, living away from India are in queue to adopt thousands of orphaned or abandoned little ones in need of a home. Making it easier for NRIs to adopt children in India would amount to a gesture towards strengthening bonds with the homeland. As awareness increases, more and more childless couples are exploring the avenue of adoption. 

For them, it is not so much a question of the old concept of ‘flesh and blood’ as it is to have a little person to care for and bring up. Many psychological and social barriers are being broken and today’s youth is willing to take into the fold a child simply for the joy of it.

We recently saw an announcement by the Indian regulator, CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) that said one-line registration for NRI Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) would begin this month. The January 31 announcement by the joint director, CARA, said: “Further it has been decided to accept only 50 applications per month on a first-come first served basis.” According to the announcement, the opening of on-line registration would be from February 3, but a visit to CARA’s website tells another story. Those clicking on the on-line registration link for inter-country adoption are met with a curt statement: “At present Registration feature not available for inter-country adoption. Contact the nearest AFAA (Authorised Foreign Adoption Agency).” So much for the announcement.

CARA is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India. It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions. It monitors inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention.  The agency primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated/recognised adoption agencies.

Prospective Adoptive Parents residing abroad have to move through CARA enlisted foreign agencies/central authorities. CARA is supposed to provide the facility for online registration and status tracking to the parents.

All existing child care institutions housing orphan, abandoned and surrendered children are required to register with the State Government and apply for recognition as Special Adoption Agency(SAA) as per law. After being recognised as SAA, such agencies should register under CARINGS to be part of CARA network. CARINGS (Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System) would facilitate linkages between agencies to ensure early rehabilitation of the child. It is a web based management information to create a network of stakeholders and to maintain a National Database on adoption.

As of now there are 72 RIPA’s (Recognised Indian Placement Agency)  which undertake both In-Country as well as Inter-Country Adoptions. For NRIs in the Gulf, the AFAA is located in Dubai.

According to some media reports, the AFAA in Dubai has some 75 pending applications from PAPs in the GCC region. Since October 2012, CARA had stopped accepting applications from NRIs for, they said, there was a backlog that needed to be cleared.

Even before that, the trend was that of foreign adoptions declining and domestic adoptions growing in numbers. This was not because people abroad were not approaching the agencies, but because there has been a growing awareness among resident Indians and laws have progressively made inter-country adoption difficult.

As against 629 inter-country adoptions between January 2011 and March 2012, there were just 283 instances between April and December 2013. As said earlier, the trend is not reflective of the interest of the prospective adoptive parents, but a result of court directions and government policies. 

As per these policies, the priority for adoption of Indian Children is as follows: “1. Indian Families in India, 2. Indian Families abroad, 3. One parent of Indian origin abroad, and 4. Totally foreign.” 

In order to ensure that Indian families in India get the priority CARA made VCA (Voluntary Coordinating Agency) clearance mandatory for adoption by Non-resident Indians (NRIs). In other words, only those children who have been cleared by the VCAs can be matched with NRI families. 

All Indian Placement Agencies have been instructed not to refer any child to NRI families without prior VCA clearance.  Apart from the multiplicity of agencies to go through, NRIs have to wade through a pile of forms, attestations, clearances and even home inspections. Besides, the eligibility criteria are extremely tough in the first place.

Understandbly, NRIs feel unfairly treated. An online petition put out by a group of NRIs calls upon the ministry and CARA to support their “efforts to adopt orphan children from India and to assist us in this journey by revoking the new mandatory VCA clearance rules for NRIs.”

According to the petition the rules “effectively place NRI families on the same level as foreign families that are not of Indian heritage. There is no mechanism in the new rules to ensure that priority is given to Indian families residing abroad once local Indians have had and passed up the opportunity to adopt the child. In addition, there is no defined timeframe for a child to become available for inter-country adoption.”

The petition states that the rules are in contrast to Indian government’s initiatives to strengthen ties with NRIs and PIOs. “NRIs are now living all over the world but they are still bound very strongly to India by a common culture and heritage that we all cherish. Quite often, when NRIs decide to adopt a child, we once again look to India to build our families. However, the new rules are an impediment to the NRI families who believe adoption is a unique way to strengthen cultural and family ties with India.” 

Indeed, if India is so sensitive to the needs of its diaspora, it would surely look to this very emotional issue in the proper perspective rather than wrap it out of reach in red tape. This is a matter of wanting to start a family, not a factory.

The Peninsula