Adoption in India is very strict. There is a very long, tedious, and cumbersome process that needs to be followed. Every year 4000 children are adopted from adoption agencies across the country and the number of registrations of couples is 20,000 to 25,000 according to the data revealed by a spokesperson of the Central Adoption Resource Agency . It takes 2 years to match a child with a couple. The waiting list increases every day and with the pandemic, it becomes more difficult to complete the formalities and adopt a child. Covid-19 has been hard on children who lost both of their parents and are now alone and have no place to go. They are now abandoned/orphaned and are at high risk of getting trafficked or abused.
There are two laws for adoption , one is Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and the other is The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. Only one statute can be followed, and there is no overlapping issue in their jurisdictions. There are few differences between both the laws. In Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 only Hindu parents can adopt the child. The upper age limit of the child must be 15 years and a registered deed finalizes the adoption whereas Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 applies to all religions and it even allows inter-country adoption. The upper age limit for the child according to this act is 18 years. An adoption order will be given by the court concerned which makes it a long process as compared to the process involved in Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. Both the Act gives the same inheritance and adoptive rights. There are various steps which are to be followed to adopt the child under JJ Act , such as the children categorize as ‘orphan’ or ‘abandoned’ has to declared legally free by Child Welfare Committee for adoption which has a long process which includes social investigation, the report from police, tracing, home study and adoption ends after taking the permission from the court. In the case of a ‘Surrendered’ child, the parent can’t take responsibility for the child due to physical, social, and financial factors and thus sign a surrender deed. A reconsideration period of 2 months is provided to the parents surrendering their child and upon expiration, the Child Welfare Committee declares the child legally free for adoption. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many male parents died, due to which single mothers won’t be able to raise the child resulting in surrendering the child. We need to understand that these children who are abandoned/orphaned or surrendered have a right to live and have a family. But due to delays in following the adoption process, they have been subjected to emotional trauma. So, there is a need to follow the procedures within the stipulated time.
Recently, messages were circulating on social media for the adoption of a child . The Ministry of Child and Women Development warned not to get trap in such messages which have catchy descriptions and clarified that every state has a child protection and welfare commission that is working hard to find the data about the children who lost their parents and are tracing their blood relatives. Also, the government issued notice on how to adopt the children. The government feared that such fake messages might lead to child trafficking, bondage, and sex work of the orphaned children. Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Anurag Kundu also tweeted: “Do not believe anyone who says he/she can give you the child for adoption. They are either lying or misleading or simply involved in illegal practices. Do reach out to your lawyer friends for advice .” Few activists also raised the matter that, in absence of the mother, the single father might sexually exploit the child. The Apex court stepped up in favor of such children and asked the district administration to identify orphans in their area and upload the data on the website of National Protection of Child Rights and ordered the state government to take action against those NGOs who are involved in an illegal adoption. The NCPCR launched a portal Bal Swaraj, which provided accurate figures. According to the report for the period between April to June, 3,621 children were orphaned, 26,176 children lost one parent and 274 children were abandoned . The central government brought schemes  for these orphaned children such as the utilization of PM Cares fund for their education, Rs. 10 lakhs will be allotted per child until the child attains the age of majority. But these schemes won’t be beneficial in long run and they are not implemented wisely. With the adoption process being so long and courts being shut down, the focus was given on Kinship and Foster care, so that the emotional vacuum of the child also gets fulfilled. Suggestions were given to make provisions for foster care in Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. For example, the Maharashtra government has started Bal Sangopan Yojna , where the state provides Rs. 1000 for the education of the child to the families looking after the child. Apart from that Kinship could help the child to adjust and feel better, with their close ones instead of waiting for someone to adopt them and take them away. So, the relatives who can take the responsibility can adopt the child by following Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 or The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. The process of adoption needs to get completed within the stipulated time through the help of virtual courts. We live in a society that still believes adoption is a “last resort” and adopt a child when they have no other option. We need to change this mindset. We need to change the perception of people who differs between their child and adopted child. Apart from that, there is a serious need to change laws that are too strict and long that it affects the orphaned child in the long term.
Author’s Name: Sanjali Shukla (Lucknow University)
- Adoption in India is a challenge. The pandemic made it a nightmare. https://scroll.in/article/973092/adoption-in-india-is-a-challenge-the-pandemic-made-it-a-nightmare
- Coronavirus: 577 children orphaned between April 1 and May 25, says the government. https://scroll.in/latest/995808/coronavirus-577-children-orphaned-between-april-1-and-may-25-says-government
- Indian Adoption Laws: Endless Wait For Children Orphaned During Pandemic https://www.livelaw.in/columns/national-commission-for-protection-of-child-rights-ncpcr-covid-19-175647
- Beware of traffickers: Social media posts seeking adoption for ‘Covid orphans’ raise concern https://theprint.in/india/beware-of-traffickers-social-media-posts-seeking-adoption-for-covid-orphans-raise-concern/658695/