Refusing to allow single-parent adoptions as laid down in new guidelines, the Missionaries of Charity have stopped adoption agency operations at more than 15 adoption homes across the country for two months now. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said Thursday that the homes do not want to “come under a uniform secular agenda”.
In August, less than two months after the revised guidelines came into effect, these homes stopped facilitating adoption of children, shifting out the remaining children to other registered homes. The ones that are already registered for adoption will be given out as and when willing families turn up.
“Some of the adoption homes run by Missionaries of Charity want to close down because they do not want to come under a uniform secular agenda, they do not want to comply with the revised guidelines. However, we are trying to persuade them, they are good people,” Gandhi told a two-day conference of state WCD ministers to discuss central schemes for women and children.
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Under the new rules, a registered adoption agency can be suspended for violation.
Gandhi is known to be passionate about adoption and her ministry decided not to wait for Parliament to pass the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 for new adoption rules to come into effect. It instead notified the rules under the existing Act.
Largely because of bottlenecks at various levels, rates of adoption are very poor in India — only about 1,200 children have been adopted so fat this year. There are 9,000 parents waiting to adopt but only 800 children are free for adoption.
Gandhi said she wants next year’s target to be 50,000 adoptions as many Indian-origin parents settled abroad have now started moving to China for babies as the Indian systems are too cumbersome.
On the decision of Nirmala Shishu Bhawans — the children’s homes run by Missionaries of Charity (MC) — to stop adoption services, Veerendra Mishra, Secretary, Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) told The Indian Express, “There are two major points of conflict. First, MC will not allow adoption by single parents; second, they also have issues with couples, one or both of whom has had a divorce earlier.”
Nirmala Shishu Bhawan in the Civil Lines area of North Delhi is one of the homes that continues to house destitute and special children but no longer offers any of them for adoption. The signage at the entrance declaring registration timings for adoption remains but there are no babies waiting for families.
“We had four babies who were up for adoption, we have moved them out. Since August, we have closed down all our adoption agencies around the country. The new guidelines hurt our conscience. They are certainly not for religious people like us, may be they are for secular people as the minister says. But we are concerned about children and their future. What if the single parent who we give our baby turns out to be gay or lesbian. What security or moral upbringing will these children get? Our rules allow only married couples to adopt,” Sister Amala, in-charge of the home said.
The MC, she said, also had issues with the new practice of allowing prospective parents to choose from among six babies, as it makes children “a commodity and not a gift”.
“Mother’s idea was adoption to counter abortion. When a woman gives birth to a baby, is she allowed a choice? She gets what God gifts her. Here too we allow only one chance, we match the baby as per the parents’ background, skin colour etc but parents are not allowed a choice, even if the child has a deformity. We cannot allow parents one option out of six to adopt children,” she said.
Calls to the Mother House in Kolkata did not elicit any response. Sister Mary who answered the phone said: “It is not possible to give a response today, as it is prayer day.”
At the conference Thursday, Gandhi named individual states and their shortcomings in adoption, urging them to set up state-level adoption authorities and district child protection units as soon as possible.She also pulled up states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal where large numbers of adoptions are pending because of the tardiness of child welfare committees (CWC) in submitting home study reports after inspecting the households of prospective parents.