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Inspection by ministry of women and child development reveals sorry state of child adoption agencies

An inspection of 15 specialised adoption agencies by the ministry of women and child development and the Central Adoption Resource Authority, carried out in January and February, has discovered glaring irregularities.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2018 09:50 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Child adoption agencies,Specialised adoption agencies,Central Adoption Resource Authority
The homes inspected were in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. (File photo)

An inspection of 15 specialised adoption agencies (SAAs) by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) and the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), carried out in January and February, has discovered glaring irregularities, including premature deaths, unhygienic conditions, and even children not being accounted for in some cases.

SAAs house orphaned and abandoned children below the age of six meant for adoption. There are 460 of them around India. The homes inspected were in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Under the Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act), SAAs, which are run by private agencies or NGOs in most cases, have to be registered with the government’s Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS) for intra- and inter-country adoptions and provide details of each child admitted to the agency. The portal is run by CARA, the government’s nodal agency monitoring adoption in the country.

“We were getting complaints that the credentials of some of the SAAs are not of required standard. So the WCD ministry ordered an inspection,” said Deepak Kumar, CEO, CARA.

“To start with, we decided to inspect 15 against whom there were the most complaints.”

The team was taken aback when it visited Jodhpur’s Navjeevan Sansthan, said a CARA official involved in drafting the inspection report who asked not to be identified. “The register showed that 14 children had died between December 2016 and January 2018. We are now seeking an explanation as to how these children had died,” said the official.

The team also found that of the 325 children who were admitted to this SAA from 2008 to 2018 and registered with CARINGS, the details of 97 children were not available.

Rajendra Parihar, owner of Navjeevan Sansthan, confirmed the deaths but said that they were mostly children born prematurely. “These children were underweight; we took them to the hospital and tried our best but could not save them.”

He also denied that there were children whose details were missing. “There is no irregularity. We provided all details to the inspection team. They checked records of 15 years and found everything in order.”

The inspection report, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, comes in the backdrop of the Jharkhand incident in July, when four newborns were allegedly sold by two sisters from a centre of Nirmal Hriday, a shelter home for destitute women run by the Missionaries of Charity.

Of the three SAAs that were inspected in Madhya Pradesh, the most glaring irregularity was found in Bhopal’s Udaan Social Welfare Development Organization. When the team headed by a joint secretary in the WCD ministry checked the details of children in the agency’s register between 2008 and 2018, it found that 168 children were admitted in SAA during this period out of which 47 were placed for adoption. There were only 13 children present at the SAA during inspection while no details or records were available of the remaining 108. “The agency could not provide details of the whereabouts of the 108 children,” another CARA official involved in the inspection said on the condition of anonymity.

Apoorva Sharma, the person in charge of the Bhopal centre, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur district, two SAAs that were inspected were subsequently closed because of unhygienic conditions and inadequate facilities to care for small children. “There were also complaints against the SAAs that they were extorting money from parents who had applied to adopt children from the centre,” the second CARA official said.

In Punjab’s Jalandhar district, the team again could not find details of nine children.

Prakash Kaur, owner of the SAA, denied this. “Some of the children here are over six years old. As per rule, we have to take their consent if they want to go for adoption. These children have said no. They continue to stay at our centre and are studying. So their details won’t reflect in the adoption portal.”

There were similar mismatches in Jalandhar’s Nari Niketan Trust, Hyderabad’s Shishu Greh and Mumbai’s Bal Asha Trust. In the Mumbai SAA, of the 324 children whose details were registered between 2008 and 2018, some 129 children were given for adoption while 45 children were present during the inspection. Details were not available of the remaining 150 children.

An official at the Mumbai SAA who asked not to be identified confirmed that an inspection was carried out and the centre had provided all details the team sought. “This is a surprise for us. All our paperwork is in order. We have details of all the children at our agency, including those who have been restored,” added this person. According to CARA’s Kumar, the mismatches show up when the details with the agency are compared with the details in the CARINGS database. “The SAAs could not provide any explanation for the children who were not accounted for.”

A senior WCD ministry official said that they are taking up the issue with respective state governments to look into the functioning of the SAAs and seek explanations where irregularities have been found. In Jharkhand, where two SAAs were inspected, and West Bengal, where one was, CARA found no discrepancies in terms of numbers although the West Bengal centre had serious hygiene issues because of which all the children there were transferred to other centres.

Experts say that though CARA gives adoption license to SAAs, the state authorities have to renew it from time to time after carrying out regular inspection under the JJ Act. “I am surprised over how these SAAs are still allowed to function in the absence of basic facilities and children who they can’t account for. Many SAAs get babies born prematurely and they should have a neonatal unit to take care of them. Not having one is not acceptable. Wherever there are major violations, state authorities have to cancel license,” said Pune-based adoption lawyer Shirin Merchant.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 08:35 IST