Adoption conjures a mix of emotions. For some, it may seem as a quick remedy to bring a child into the house, and for others, an act of nobility. Some think of adoption as ‘Plan B’ while others view it as an opportunity to complete the family without getting into the travails of pregnancy yet again. Whatever be the driver, most parents carry an air of caution, loss, suspicion, grief and surprise around adoption.
Unlike law, religion, science, taxation, relations, marriage, careers and whole lot of domains prescribed at school and college education, adoption has completely escaped the attention of our educators. It is not part of any curriculum; there are no festivals dedicated to it; it is not enshrined in any political party’s manifesto and there are hardly any family or public conversations around it.
Whatever little people understand of adoption is largely fed through Bollywood and fiction in melodramatic overtones.
Here are 10 things you need to know about adoption to gain an objective understanding about it and to present the same to others with little knowledge about it:
1. Anyone can adopt: Adoption is not just the last recourse of couples affected by infertility. Families are increasingly choosing to adopt a child, irrespective of their need or ability to reproduce one. Many single parents also opt for adoption. The law does not differentiate between rural, urban, rich, poor, single, married or divorced status of the parent. It does not discriminate on the basis of religion or social status either. You don’t have to prove if you’re infertile, and you don’t have to give a reason as to why you want to adopt. Just be confident and rest assured that millions have tread this path, and that there is a support system available, should you need help.
2. Choose a legal and safe option: India has two perfectly legal options of adopting a child. The old method was to adopt a child under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956, where only Hindus could adopt a child. There are several risks of adopting under HAMA. It must be understood that adoption under HAMA is not illegal. Just that HAMA being an old law, is not designed to support mass scale adoptions between strangers.
The second option is to register with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) on their website www.cara.nic.in, where the entire process is online. You will be assigned a Unique All India Seniority, which does not change across the adoption cycle.
Soon after registration, your home study will be conducted by a Social Worker. Once your home study is approved and uploaded, you become eligible to receive a referral.
3. Yes, there is wait: Currently there are about 16,000 parents registered for adoption with CARA, with only less than 2,000 children. More than half of these children have a special need, leaving just about 400 children below two years of age who are legally free for adoption. This has resulted in a wait for about 15-18 months for getting your first referral. The wait time varies, and could be shorter for different preferences according to age, gender, state of the child.
4. Counselling is must: Even if you are aware of the overall process, it is a good idea to seek counselling in adoption. There are NGOs and adoption support groups that offer counselling. It helps you prepare for adoption, overcome the feeling of loss, connects you with the child and with other families trying to adopt. Genuine advice can help you decide which category to adopt from – immediate placement category, special need group, older children – from anywhere in India or from specific states.
Each parent is different and capable of supporting a different kind of child.
You may be able to save a few months of your wait by adopting a child that might have special needs. A good counsellor can suggest good books and videos and connect you with families, lawyers, doctors etc. and engage you in events associated with adoption.
6. Accept the child: Do not judge a child by his/herappearance. You’ll only increase the wait and delay the happy times in seeking multiple profiles. Adoption is not about ‘matching’ a child. It is about accepting one.
7. Refrain from extra medical tests: Each child that has been referred to you has been medically examined and the medical reports are available along with the referral. These reports are valid for 6 months. Don’t be tempted to conduct extra medical tests, unless it’s really necessary. Remember, a child loses up to 5% of his/her blood every time a new set of parents conducts their tests (blood test is the most basic requirement, in addition to other tests) and needs two weeks to recuperate the loss. Repeated tests by parents, sometimes week after week, cause extreme pain, trauma and setback to the child’s development. Even a perfectly healthy child may become sick with repeated exposure to tests, radiation, diagnostics and strain.
8. Talk about adoption: Contrary to what you see in films, it is absolute necessary to share you decision to adopt a child. It is your child’s right to be aware of his/her identity and it helps them discover their true potential. If you choose not to tell them, chances are they’ll discover on their own or through someone else, and they might not be able to process that information.
You will also come across several instances where you will have to share that your child was adopted, especially with the pediatrician. Make adoption a positive experience, rather than an undesirable one.
9. Accept the truth: There are certain things you need to accept as a parent, in order to experience joy and bliss through adoption. Your child indeed has birth parents. Refer to them with respect, especially during the growing up years of the child. Your child should never feel that his/her parents were incapable of taking care of him/her.
It’s possible that the child will have a different personality than yours. Allow him/her to realise his/her true potential. Do not thrust your wishes – moral, academic or emotional – on your child. Your child may live in the shadow of being different from you. Encourage the feeling of difference, rather than trying to curb it or ignore it.
10. Embrace Positive Adoption Language: Adoption is just another way of building a family. You need to make a conscious effort to make it a positive experience. Labelling the child as an ‘adopted’ child, comparing it with ‘real’ children, referring to adoption as ‘Plan B’ are a result of conditioning. Make no big deal about adoption. Share your values, beliefs and underlying message of humanity and love through adoption. Make your child feel comfortable with adoption and do not shy away from correcting, educating or sensitising the uninitiated folks when confronted with uncomfortable situations. Prepare your children to expect these situations and train them to deal with such occasions through Positive Adoption Language (PAL).
Life is a journey. Each one of us is blessed uniquely. Adoption may be the opportunity to rediscover ourselves, our hidden potentials and our ability to love and connect with another soul. And when in doubt, always keep the child’s best interest above everything else.