An NRI couple’s decision to adopt a child with special needs may have delayed their plans of starting a family by at least a year. Wait-listed for adoption since April 2016, the Jakarta-based couple has encountered a hurdle in adopting an Indian baby with special needs since they had first registered with the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) to adopt a ‘normal’ child.
With the system entirely computerised since 2015, the Indian embassy in Indonesia has now warned the couple that changing preferences will put them lower on the wait-list.
In March this year, the 41-year-old homemaker (name withheld on request) got to know about a one-and-a-half-year-old child with special needs through a common friend in Mumbai. “I saw pictures of her first birthday and instantly felt like she is my baby. Her nose and lips looked exactly like mine,” she told The Indian Express. The couple approached the embassy in Jakarta to facilitate adoption.
The baby’s profile had been online for six weeks. But with the entire adoption process going online, a couple no longer has the option of personally approaching an agency for adoption.
The baby is under foster care in a Vile Parle flat. Her profile has been up for adoption under a Colaba-based NGO. However, no couple has chosen her yet.
Social workers point towards the lack of interest among couples in India in adopting a child with special needs, including those who suffer from disability, physical handicap or a minor ailment.
In this case, the baby suffers from foetal alcohol syndrome. She had been diagnosed with a hole in her heart and underwent a heart surgery last year. According to social workers, her mother was alcoholic during pregnancy, which affected the baby’s foetal growth. A doctor’s letter, however, shows she has normal growth parameters now.
The foster care mother who along with her husband and two children has been looking after the girl and her medical requirements for a year now says she has grown attached to the baby. “It is natural for me to want her to get loving parents. This couple is emotionally involved and consideration should be made by the government in this regard,” she said.
According to the NRI couple from Delhi, they approached the Indian embassy in Indonesia to change their category from ‘normal child’ to ‘special needs child’ and to change the city of preference from Delhi to Mumbai. They claimed to have emotionally got attached to the baby even though they have not met her yet. “I came in touch with the foster mother through a friend,” said the 41-year-old.
“But CARA officials I approached for help told me changing preferences will push us down the list. I have already waited for so long,” she said, adding that she had attempted in-vitro fertilisation before she decided on adoption, but there was no success. Her husband, a finance professional, is 48 years old.
According to her, the adoption procedure for NRIs is longer than for Indian couples due to tedious paperwork. Her friend took three years before she could finally take a baby home to Jakarta.
The couple plans to visit India this month to meet the baby and government officials. Speaking to The Indian Express, Joint Director from CARA Jagannath Pati said, “In case a couple wants to adopt a child with special needs, the process is made flexible. They should provide their registration number for us to consider.”
According to data from CARA, India has about 4,000 children up for adoption. At least 50 per cent of them reportedly have special needs. “But 95 per cent couples are not willing to adopt such children,” said Avinash Kumar, founder of Delhi-based NGO Families of Joy.
In 2016-17, as many as 3,210 children were adopted within India and 527 were adopted by foreign couples.
With the online process automatically generating referrals of children for couple to choose from, “the human touch is lost”, said Najma Goriawalla, attached with the Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption, Matunga. “Earlier, prospective parents could come visit a child and spend time to emotionally connect. Now, the visit happens at a later stage. And if they reject the baby, they go down on the waiting list,” she said.
Kumar, however, said the system had both its pros and cons. “Adoption is about accepting a child. Earlier, agencies would use their discretion in finalising a parent. The system is more transparent now,” he said.