Over 30k prospective parents, but only 2.1k kids free for adoption | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Over 30k prospective parents, but only 2.1k kids free for adoption

By, New Delhi
May 11, 2023 12:25 AM IST

The CARA statistics showed that of 30,477 prospective parents registered with the central nodal agency for adoption, 28,779 (94%) are heterosexual couples.

The back story to India’s tedious and interminable adoption process can clearly be seen in the statistics with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA): While more than 30,000 prospective parents are currently waiting to adopt, less than 7% the number of children — 2131— are legally free for adoption. Around two-third of them are children with special needs, and it takes three years for an adoption process to complete.

Only 2131 children are legally free for adoption, says data (Representational image)
Only 2131 children are legally free for adoption, says data (Representational image)

According to the statistics placed by the Union government before the Supreme Court during the hearing of a bunch of petitions demanding legal recognition for same-sex marriages, around half the number of children legally free for adoption are special needs children, with the highest number of them falling in 14-18 age group.

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The data, as on April 28, was adduced before a constitution bench led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud by additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati as the law officer rose to oppose a demand of the same-sex couples to have the right to adopt a child as unions. The bench also included justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha.

“The architecture of child centric laws is very carefully crafted with child being paramount. Any general declaration with reading ‘spouse’ instead of husband and wife will make laws related to adoption, assisted reproduction, surrogacy completely unworkable...the paramount interest of the child, his rights to care and love must supersede any other rights pressed by any other individuals or unions,” Bhati argued.

When the bench pointed out that the existing legal regime also allows single parent, who may be in a homosexual or a live-in relationship to adopt, Bhati banked on the statistics from CARA to buttress her point that there are thousands of heterosexual couples already in queue and that the law, in the interest of stability and welfare of a child, allows only heterosexual couples to adopt.

The CARA statistics showed that of 30,477 prospective parents registered with the central nodal agency for adoption, 28,779 (94%) are heterosexual couples; 1,543 women and 155 men.

Of 2,131 children legally free for adoption, the majority — 1,356, are special need children and 742 of them are girls. 339 of such children are in the 14-18 age group, followed by 167 in the 12-14 age bracket.

Among 775 normal children, the highest numbers —370 — are again in the 14-18 age group, followed by 185 in 0-2 years. Of the 775, 497 are girl children while 278 are boys.

After Bhati read out from the CARA statistics saying that less than 1,500 children are currently in the pool of adoption, the CJI was surprised: “Only 1500 available across India? And there are more than 30,000 parents waiting?”

Justice Bhat went on to ask the ASG if CARA statistics should not raise certain concerns for the Centre. “When you say there are less than 1,500 children available for more than 30,000 parents, is it not a matter of concern? You look at every child care institution and that can will find thousands of children. In Delhi alone, you have 50 such institutions. In Tamil Nadu you will have more than 250 institutions,” said the judge. He also pointed out that older children have nowhere to go after they turn 18 because they cannot be kept in child care institutions after attaining majority.

Bhati replied that a child has to be declared free for adoption in law and that there is an extensive process before a child can be declared legally free for adoption. “We have a system of extended family here...an elongated process has to be followed. And the entire process is automated at CARA. There is a human element involved,” she added.

Justice Kohli asked the ASG how long it takes for CARA to complete an adoption process. “It usually takes three years,” replied Bhati.

The CARA statistics, reviewed by HT, further disclosed that in the last 10 years, 38,271 children, which included 22,785 girl children (60%), were given in adoption through CARA.

Under the law, all abandoned or orphaned children do not automatically become legally free for adoption. Such children are first brought before the district child welfare committee and placed in a child care institution under the Juvenile Justice Act. Subsequently, endeavours are made to trace their immediate or extended families and reunite them. If this fails, the child welfare committee has to deem the child legally free for adoption. The district child protection unit links such children to an adoption agency and the child is then registered with CARA. A medical report is prepared and the child is then matched with a prospective parent after a home study is undertaken by CARA authorities. The request is also considered by a district magistrate before a final decision is made regarding an adoption.

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