SINGLE INDIAN women over the age of 40, with the financial wherewithal to bring up an adopted child, will be given preference in the adoption process, according to a decision taken by the Woman and Child Development (WCD) ministry. The resolution was passed this month by the steering committee of Central Adoption Research Agency (CARA), a statutory body of the WCD ministry, taking into account the rising trend of single women coming forward to adopt and raise a child on their own.
The move is a radical shift from the Centre’s stand on the issue of surrogacy, which limits the option to only infertile married couples while entirely disallowing single men and women. “The move was proposed by WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi after considering the many representations she got from such women. Adoption requests are processed by keeping the child’s best interests in mind and if a financially independent woman, with a stable income, wants to adopt a child, it very well falls within this criteria,” a ministry official said.
The decision in favour of older single women would mean that they would get to jump the long queues of those who have registered for adoption with CARA. This is significant, especially in view of the fact that there are only 2,000-odd children who are legally available for adoption, 50 per cent of them with special needs. In comparison, the number of wait-listed couples and individuals who have registered for adopting a child is 16,000.
“On an average, we get 1,000 new applicants every month, while we are able to place only 300 children for adoption. The present waiting period for an aspiring (adoptive) parent is about 15 months,” the official said.
Officials said while only a few hundred of these are 40-plus single women, the numbers have steadily shown an increase over the last few years.
Avinash Kumar, a member of CARA’s steering committee, said he has come across more single women opting for adoption in the course of his counselling sessions over the last four to five years.
“Many no longer look upon it as taboo for a single unmarried woman to raise a child on her own,” Kumar said. “What came up during our committee discussions is the fact that single women often do not have the kind of support system that couples find in each other, or in their families. So when they are clear and committed about raising a child single-handedly, we need to encourage them and make it easier for them.”
Adoption regulations under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, currently allow couples as well as single men and women the option of going for adoption. This also includes NRIs and those of foreign origin. While single men are allowed to adopt only male children, single women have no such restrictions.The JJ Act requires all childcare institutions in the country, including those privately run, to be registered with CARA, which maintains a central list of all wait-listed parents.
However, since the new rules came into force, the Mother Teresa-founded Missionaries of Charity dropped its adoption services since it believed in placing children only with families and not with single men or women.
The adoption rules also specify the age of prospective parents. According to rules, single women and men up to the age of 45 can adopt a child under the age of four; those up to 50 years will be given children between 5-8 and those up to 55 years old can adopt children in the age group of 9 to 18 with adoption being disallowed after that.
For couples, the composite age of the partners is taken into account. For instance, a child up to four years of age can be placed with a couple whose composite age is 90 years and so on.