In a bid to fast-track pending cases of prospective adoptive parents waiting to adopt a child, the Maharashtra government has written to the Registrar General of the Bombay High Court seeking that a special court in the high court be designated to expedite adoption matters. According to the state, there are 250 cases of adoption still pending where both children and parents are available for adoption but procedural delays are leading to the process being stalled.
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As per the present guidelines, the adoptive parents have to register online to initiate the process under the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). The home study of the prospective parents is then carried out and a report prepared within a month by a social worker or NGO from a panel maintained by the State Adoption Resource Agency or District Child Protection Unit. Thereafter, the process of matching a child with the adoptive parent is initiated.
“The child is taken in pre-adoption foster care by the prospective adoptive parents. The specialised adoption agency then files the adoption petition in court. There are several procedural delays at various stages which can be overcome and fast-tracked if a special court is designated for such cases This will help reduce the pendency of adoption cases in the city,” said a senior government official, adding that such a letter requesting for designation of a court was sent earlier this month.
“Such a delay might be in terms of processing of documentation or in the sessions court before which the matter comes up,” added the official.
The move to seek for a specially designated court is in accordance to the recommendations made by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, added the official.
The Registrar General of the Bombay High Court, Mangesh Patil, however, said he was yet to receive such a letter.
In Maharashtra, till September 3, 2016, there were about 314 children for adoption. Out of these, 181 were children with special needs and 24 were children above six years of age, who seldom get adopted.
This information was provided after Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi sought details pertaining to adoption of orphans, abandoned and surrendered children in Maharashtra.
The letter, in response to queries raised by the ministry, further claims that Maharashtra accounts for about a quarter of the total adopted children in India. “About 439 cases are pending with Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Maharashtra out of a total of 1,811 cases pending in India. Out of such cases, 229 cases are within the time limit of four months,” states the letter.
According to the government, the delay is mainly due to the vacancies in CWCs. “As per the J J Act 2015, the decision to declare an orphan abandoned or surrendered child as legally free has to be taken by at least three members of the CWC. In Maharashtra, in select CWCs there are vacancies and therefore the quorum of three members is not being met. The process for appointment is on,” said an official.
Further, one of the major reasons for the pendency with CWCs is delay from the police in conducting the enquiry and submitting a final report regarding the status of the child.
Meanwhile, the present CARA guidelines have attracted a lot of criticism from NGOs and adoptive parents alike leading to the Supreme Court asking them to carry out amendments in the existing 2015 guidelines. A petition against the online process has been filed in the high court.
“The amended guidelines by CARA were supposed to be notified by December 31, this has not happened. The problem with the online system is that it is parent centric as opposed to being child centric. The child who is put up for adoption is like a commodity being sold on Amazon. There needs to be a system by which the documents submitted by the parents can be verified which is not happening under the present system. There is also no counselling leading to rise in cases where children are being returned by adoptive parents,” said Shireen Merchant, who was appearing for the parties in the petition against the online system.
According to the government, they have now removed the display of children’s photos.