Child adoption: Why older and special needs kids are getting left behindhttps://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/family/adoption-gaining-acceptance-but-older-special-needs-kids-face-challenge-5944092/

Child adoption: Why older and special needs kids are getting left behind

About 278 kids adopted across the country in 2017-19 were reportedly returned by their families, according to an RTI reply from CARA. Of these, a quarter of them were kids with special needs, 60 per cent were girls apart from older children with compatibility issues.

child adoption
People are mostly adopting babies while older kids are being left behind. (Source: Getty Images)

With better awareness and evolved family setups, adoption isn’t just considered now as the recourse in the absence of biological kids. Today many people, from single parents to even those with biological children, including celebrities, are opting for adoption. But to say that Indian society today has eased into the idea of child adoption might be too simple an assumption.

Child adoption practices in the country are not exactly homogeneous. Among several personal preferences influencing the choice of the child to be adopted, is the desire for babies rather than older kids. Out of total 3374 domestic adoptions during the financial year 2018-19, 252 older children (between ages six and 18 years) were adopted by domestic parents, Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) informed Express Parenting. In 2017-18, about 80 per cent of kids adopted in the country were below the age of two.

Why do people adopt babies and not older kids?

Adoptive parents usually want to experience all stages of the child’s growing up years, right from infancy. This also gives them an opportunity to start with a clean slate, to mould the child with the right values and etiquette right from the beginning.

Older kids, on the other hand, usually carry the baggage of their past that may or may not be pleasant, adding to the challenges of raising him or her effectively. Take Sheik Jenia, for instance, a mother who adopted an older girl after having two biological sons. Adopting an older kid was her choice. “My daughter was three years old when she came to us. So, she definitely remembered her past…She had meltdowns, would hold our hands tightly and cry,” she had told Express Parenting.

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With lesser number of older kids being adopted, many are left under the care of foster homes or put for inter-country adoption, CARA CEO Deepak Kumar was quoted as saying in an interview.

The numbers drop further in the case of special needs children. In 2018-19, a total of 40 special needs children were adopted by domestic parents, compared to 364 special needs kids adopted by foreign parents during the same period.

Aditya Tiwari, the youngest single male in the country to adopt a child who has Down Syndrome, stated earlier, “Nobody wanted to adopt him only because he was a child with special needs. My son has Down Syndrome and needed care. That’s exactly why I wanted to adopt him. Initially, it wasn’t easy for people to accept what I did. My family discouraged me. The same people appreciated my effort later when they saw me pulling off what I had aimed for.”

Does adopting a baby rather than an older kid lessen the chances of parenting problems in the future? Every parent wants to have a healthy and happy child, no doubt. But parenting is an ongoing challenge where the obstacles and disabilities, if any, manifest only as the child grows older, be it in the case of an adopted or biological kid.

‘Adoption is a calculated risk’

Madhuri Abhyankar, Programme Director, Samarpan Programme for Adoption Research Counselling and Consultancy Care (SPARCC), told Express Parenting, “You will have to keep in mind that adoption is a calculated risk, and so is the biological child. You will only know about the challenges as your child grows, from learning disabilities, convergence to autism. There is never 100 per cent guarantee that a child will be ‘perfect’. Most of us have unfulfilled dreams and we want our kids to fulfill them. But we need to think how far it is valid to put our burden on the child.”

Your child’s healthy upbringing is contingent on your parenting style. Besides, advanced health and education practices, including special needs education, have also opened up opportunities to ensure the same.

Unfortunately, about 278 kids adopted across the country in 2017-19 were reportedly returned by their families, according to an RTI reply from CARA. Of these, a quarter of them were kids with special needs, 60 per cent were girls apart from older children with compatibility issues. “Inadequate preparation by parents and inadequate evaluation of adoption agencies in home study reports are the major causes of adoption disruption…Adoption withdrawal is more common among older kids and those with special needs,” Dr Aloma Lobo, adoptive parent and former chairperson, CARA, was quoted as saying.

What to consider before adoption

Contrary to any romantic notion about adoption, it is actually a huge responsibility that you cannot back out from. One has to be absolutely prepared mentally before adopting a child. Madhuri Abhyankar suggested some things to consider before you go ahead with adoption:

1. Parent(s) should be absolutely sure and mutually agree to adopt a child.

2. It should be an informed decision and the parent(s) should undergo proper pre-adoption counselling before going ahead with the plan, to make them aware of all aspects and risks associated with the adoption process and parenting issues.

3. Parent(s) need to be fully prepared to accept their child unconditionally, despite his or her shortcomings.

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4. When a child is adopted, he or she does not just need parents but an entire family. So, the family members should also be informed about the parents’ decision to adopt. That’s because, when the child grows up and discovers that he or she has been adopted, they might want to confirm it with the family and should not be a victim of any prejudice.