The rate of adoption by Indian couples in Maharashtra has fallen by 27 per cent in last five years in contrast to increasing adoptions by foreign couples that noted a 77 per cent rise.
In 2014-15, Maharashtra recorded 954 adoptions by Indian couples which fell to 677 in 2018-19. In the same period, adoption by foreign couples rose almost two-fold from 87 to 154.
While adoption agencies blame the fall in domestic numbers on shift of adoption procedure to more stringent online portal managed by the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), government officials claim the drop is due to fewer children available in the most sought after age bracket of less than two year olds. Experts also observed that more transparency in system and stringent rules introduced since 2015 may have pushed adoptions out from government system under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, towards adoption under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
Since 2014, Maharashtra has recorded 4,882 adoptions. Maximum adoption in last five years was noted in 2014-15 when 1,041 adoptions were recorded by State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA).
“Indian parents waitlist themselves to adopt children aged less than two years. Children available for adoption in this age group are fewer,” said Manisha Biraris, assistant commissioner at Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
Data from the Maharashtra government showed there are 3,121 Indian couples and 79 foreign couples on waitlist for adoption. But there remain only 278 children for adoption.
“More than 80 per cent waitlisted couples want to adopt a child who is less than two-year-old and healthy. So the waitlist grows. Eventually these couples look for adoption through other means and drop out of CARA,” said Avinash Kumar, from NGO Families of Joy. In contrast, foreign couples who are more willing to adopt older children or children with special needs, like congenital heart defect or learning disability, witness a faster adoption procedure than domestic adoptions.
Government officials also suspect adoption agencies prefer foreign couples due to higher remuneration. A foreign couple has to pay $5,000 (Rs 3.5 lakh) to an adoption centre to process passport, visa and do documentation work. In contrast, an Indian couple has to pay Rs 40,000 as fees. An adoption agency based out of Chembur, however, said no profit is made from foreign couples. “The fees they pay goes into processing of passport and visa,” an official from adoption centre said.
Amongst a series of reasons for drop in domestic adoptions is the online procedure handled by CARA. A Mumbai suburban adoption agency said the new system forces couples to use computer for interface rather than regular physical meetings with adoption centre and the child.
“Adoption is an emotional procedure and couples don’t get all their questions answered through online portal. Several Indian couples are shying away from CARA because of long wait list,” the NGO official said.