It took three years for a 10-year-old boy suffering from Hepatitis B to get adopted from Bal Asha Trust in Mumbai. After getting dejected as he saw Indian parents mostly opt for ‘normal’ kids, a foreign couple finally made him their family.
Even as his adoption paperwork is underway, a five-year-old blind girl, waitlisted for adoption since five years, has not been as lucky. Last month, she was shifted from Matunga-based Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption and Child Welfare (IAPA) to a permanent childcare home after the agency realised she may not be adopted ever.
A Right to Information (RTI) query with the Maharashtra State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA) shows that even as 1,525 parents are on waitlist for adoption (as on March 2), 192 children with special needs in state’s 63 adoption agencies continue to await a family.
A child with a special need suffers from small medical problems, which may be corrected by a surgery, to major ones such as heart disease, physical handicap, HIV, cerebral palsy, hepatitis or mental disease.
According to adoption agencies in the state, the adoption of children with special needs has suffered, specially amongst Indian couples, more so after changes made in Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) guidelines in August 2015. The new system replaces direct communication between couples and agencies into an online system, where couples select state, male v/s female, and normal kids v/s ones with special needs on CARA’s portal before being offered options of six children and then getting directed to agencies.
Data from CARA showed that total adoptions dipped to 3,677 in 2015-16 from 4,362 in 2014-15 in India.
“The new system has its pros and cons. It removes corruption to some extent but the scope of pre-counselling couples to adopt children with special needs is gone,” said Sunil Arora, president of Federation of Adoption Agencies.
Before August 2015, he had counselled a doctor that it is possible to look after a child with a heart disease and helped him adopt her, helped a child with cerebral palsy get adopted and ones with HIV get adopted too.
But after 2015 August, he said only eight kids have been adopted from Bal Asha Trust, all by foreign nationals. A 22-year-old girl is the longest resident amongst over 40 kids with special needs. She continued to live in a bedridden condition after no one came forward to adopt her. “It is possible to adopt and live with children with special needs. They just need little extra care,” added Arora.
In Buldana’s Love Trust, there are 12 children living with either a disease or physical handicap. “In last two years, 11 have been adopted by foreign couples. Indian couples need to open up to this option, they only want to adopt fit children,” said Harvardhan Agashe, managing trustee. He added that the new online system has removed the scope of allowing agency to personally convince parents to help a special needs’ kid get a better life. “Since the system is online, couples have already made up their mind. They simply select a fit baby online,” he said.
Four at his center suffer from cerebral palsy. Dadu (7) also suffers from mental and physical disability.
“There is little chance of him getting adopted,” said Agashe. The three other are girls, the eldest of which is eight years, and they continue to remain with the center since several years.
At Missionaries of Charity in Vile Parle, there are over 10 children with special needs. The agency converted into a permanent childcare home late last year. “We realised no one, not even other adoption agencies, will adopt these children,” a sister said.
According to Najma Goriawala, consultant with IAPA, a public interest litigation has been filed with the Bombay High Court with concerns over the new online system.
In Colaba’s Family Service Center adoption agency, social worker Avanti More said a baby is first shown to Indian couples for six months and then offered to foreign couples. “In case of babies who are undernourished or have a disease, they are mostly rejected by Indians. Only foreigners are ready to adopt such kids because they have better medical facilities.”
At FSC, no child with special needs has been adopted after August 2015. The last such adoption was in 2014 when a 20-month-old boy suffering from thalassemia was adopted by a foreign couple.