More than 16,000 prospective parents have been waiting for over three years to adopt a child, with officials attributing the slowdown to the availability of fewer children who are legally free for adoption.
According to data shared by officials of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in response to an RTI filed by PTI, there are 28,501 prospective parents whose home study reports have been approved and are in queue for adopting a child.
Out of them, 16,155 prospective parents whose home study reports have been approved three years ago are still waiting in queue for adoption, according to the data.
As of June 28, there are 3,596 children legally free for adoption, including 1,380 with special needs.
”The average waiting period for adoption is 2-2.5 years and then there are very few children who are legally free for adoption, making it further difficult for prospective parents to find children for adoption,” a senior official said.
According to official data, there are 2,971 children living in specialised adoption agencies who fall under the category of being “not adoptable” while there are a total of nearly 7,000 children in the specialised adoption centre.
“The children falling under the non-adoptable category are those children whose biological parents have not given consent for them to be put for adoption but they are put in child care homes as the parents are unable to support and take care of their child. If a child is over five years of age, consent from them is also needed before putting them up for adoption,” another official explained.
In the last Parliament session, a parliamentary panel has recommended that the adoption process in the country be simplified and stressed the need for a close relook at various regulations guiding the procedure of adoption.
Also, last year the government amended the Juvenile Justice Act under which increased powers and responsibilities were given to district magistrates to speed up the adoption processes in the country.
Earlier, adoption processes were under the purview of courts.
Child rights experts, however, believe that more is required than just simplifying the process.
Kumar Shailabh, co-director of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, said adoptions are a very tricky process and prior to amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act there was a very firm process involving courts.
”But now the process will be looked into by district magistrates and the district administration has several others things to do and adoption is an addition to it so the checks and balances required for adoption has become very vague and whether they have the capacity or bandwidth to check or confirm whether adoption is legal or illegal…because there have been cases of trafficking in the name of adoption…so now the problem is going to take another shape and size after the amendment,” he said.
Executive Director of NGO Centre for Advocacy and Research Akhila Sivadas said the issue is not just about simplifying the procedure, it is also about how governments deliver or implement such programmes.
”Starting from educating the public on the issue till the stage when you hand over the child to the prospective parents, the functionaries and implementers tasked with doing it should view it as public service and will feel less burdened and discouraged by all the administrative rules if they foster community and citizen participation and involvement,” she said.
Sivadas said this alone will ensure that everyone gets sensitised on the issue and is able to approach it with an understanding of the role they are playing as a community and as prospective parents.
For adopting a child, a prospective parent has to upload their application for adoption with relevant documents on CARA’s website following which a home study is conducted by a social worker.
After which, profiles of children identified as legally free for adoption are then shared by the specialised adoption agencies with the prospective parents who select a child and the matter is then looked upon by the district magistrate.