Every day when we go out and witness street children roaming around and begging, hardly anyone thinks that getting a child adopted is a tough job. Every now and then I receive enquiries related to adoption of a child. I was enquired and requested to help for adoption from three parents in and out of Mumbai in just a week’s time. So, I thought this could be an interesting topic for this week’s Blog. Though, this could be a very general topic among the legally educated people but nobody knows the exact procedure for legally adopting a child. It is unfortunate but most of the legal eagles also don't know the exact adoption process in India.

Adopting a child is supposed to be a very soulful and pleasant journey. But sadly enough, the process turns out to be quite the opposite. Especially in a country like India where homeless children are found in abundance, a small percentage of them are registered as legally eligible for adoption by the child welfare committees. The committee is a regulatory body which is, therefore, meant to be inefficient. The good thing about this is that it provides you with a legitimate and legally recognized procedure, whereas the bad thing is that it paves the way to illegal adoption done by unidentified entities. The legal way is very tedious and exhausting, which is why illegal ways lure prospective parents for adoption. But the problem remains the same- the inefficiency and the long procedure. The in-country and inter-country adoption procedure is set out by the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), which operates as part of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. The method involves long waits as you have to complete a mountain of paperwork, cool your heels at numerous government offices for proofs that you are capable of taking care of a child, get a home study report that evaluates the conduciveness of the home environment, and wait in a serpentine queue of parents registered with adoption agencies that will match you with your child.

What is the procedure of adoption?

CARA mainly focuses on simplifying procedures, expediting the process for declaring a child free for adoption, ensuring that no child is given away in adoption outside the legal system, and tries to bridge the gap between the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956. The prerequisite of adoption is that one must be registered with the licensed adoption agency or CARA, otherwise, one would fall into deep trouble with the law if he/she adopts a child from any unlicensed adoption agency, orphanage or street. Several things are asked at the beginning of the process and the further steps will be processed accordingly depending on the registration.

How long is the wait?

Child adoption is a stressful and time-taking procedure that can take a few months to years. How long does the procedure of child adoption takes in India depends upon different factors which are required to be taken into consideration like the age of the child, gender of the child, financial stability and the type of adoption. A legal adoption in India should not take more than 2 years but there are numerous cases where it has exceeded 2 years- it takes more time if there are many preferences demanded by the parents. If one wants an infant boy, the wait is about a year-and-a-half longer than when wanting to adopt a five-year-old girl.

Lately, the government is exploring amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act to simplify the process. Related data has shown a worrisome trend about a wide and consistently growing gap between the number of prospective parents and children available for adoption. There are many adoptable kids but very few available to be adopted legally. Illegal adoptions are not tracked anywhere but can result in Child trafficking and other illegal activities. On an average, 4000 kids are formally adopted across India through CARA. However, the registered numbers of prospective parents are much higher than this which is nearly 20,000 - 25,000 per year.

Therefore, how much time the adoption process will take then it varies upon case to case. If one fulfils all the requirements easily and fast, then the process may be completed within a few months and one can become an adoptive parent. But the government should come up with ways to make the process easier and efficient. Speaking from personal experience, I have known people who have been trying to adopt a child for years now. Due to one or the other reasons he hasn’t been getting the child. A couple from Kanpur approached me for adoption. The couple was ready to adopt a child as soon as the agency arranges them one but after they approached the agency, the process kept on extending and it has been 6 months now. It is very exhausting for the couple as the feeling of adopting a child went from delightful and soulful to a tiring one. Initially, to avoid long paperwork, they approached some agency which arranges child without a legitimate process. But, they were taken back by surprise as they were asked to pay nearly 20 lakhs.

The main reason for such a tough method is because not many of the homeless children are registered as “legally free” by the child adoption centers. The following are the conditions of children to be eligible for adoption:

- As per the guidelines of the Central Government of India, any orphan, abandoned or surrendered child, declared legally free for adoption by the child welfare committee is eligible for adoption.

- A child is said to be an orphan when the child is without a legal parent or a guardian or the parents are not capable of taking care of the child anymore.

- A child is considered abandoned on being deserted or unaccompanied by parents or a guardian and the child welfare committee has declared the child to be abandoned.

- A surrendered child is one who has been relinquished on account of physical, social and emotional factors which are beyond the control of parents or the guardian and is so declared by the child welfare committee.

- In order to be adopted, a child needs to be “legally free”. On receipt of an abandoned child, the District Child Protection Unit puts up an alert with the child’s photograph and details in state-wide newspapers and requests the local police to trace the parents. The child is considered legally free for adoption only after the police have given a report stating that the parents of the child are non-traceable.

This proves how difficult is to make this process centralized and have one body trying to regulate all the adoptions taking place throughout the nation. This also justifies why the ratio of adaptable children and legally free children is miserable. It is to be noted that adopting a child is as big a responsibility as giving birth to a child. You’re going to be responsible for the life, upbringing, health, education etc. of the life of a child that cannot be taken for granted. The best way to deal through the legal procedure is to seek consultancy from a child adoption attorney.

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