Adoption may start as a decision made by prospective parents, but like all paths to parenthood, it is ultimately about the child.
Irrespective of the reason to adopt, a successful and happy adoption requires that parents put the welfare of the child first, do not treat it as a selection process, and lovingly accept the child that comes into their life.
At the same time, the formal adoption process should be structured in a way that it respects the children awaiting adoption and does not accommodate prospective parents at the cost of treating the children in an unfair manner.
Here are five positive changes from the past year, among many others, that continue the make the adoption process in India more child-centric.
1) Only one child is referred at a time
After prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) complete the required paperwork and home study, they are ready to receive referrals of children awaiting adoption based on the criteria specified by the PAPs.
In the early days of the online centralised adoption process, PAPs could receive multiple child referrals at the same time. This meant that the PAPs could compare children, wrongly amplifying the notion of selecting a child.
Moreover, while the PAPs thought about the referrals (within a time-bound window), the children were blocked and couldn’t be referred to another family.
The process has now been changed to PAPs receiving a referral of only one child at a time, reminding the PAPs that every child is unique and deserving of a family.
2) A total of 3 child referrals instead of 6
What if a prospective parent keeps rejecting every child that is referred to them? Earlier, a PAP could receive up to six child referrals; this number has now been cut down to three.
If a PAP does not go ahead with adopting a child after three referrals, they have to do their home study with a social worker again. This allows the social worker to understand why the PAPs rejected all referrals, provides an opportunity to counsel the PAPs, and also ascertain whether the PAPs are ready to adopt a child. This change makes sure that PAPs don’t treat adoption as a way to continually judge or select children.
3) The ‘Immediate Placement’ list
Making the adoption process child-centric not only requires a thoughtful approach but also the willingness to address any issues as they come up. Our society has many biases and illogical notions, and unfortunately, some people carry these over into the adoption process, which results in many children going through the referral cycles but not getting adopted.
To ensure that children get noticed by PAPs, who are also committed, the ‘Immediate Placement’ list was introduced.
The list allows PAPs to see all the children who can be adopted immediately. PAPs who adopt a child from the immediate placement list can bring their child home without any waiting time, whereas PAPs with specific criteria have to wait for a referral as per their position in a wait-list.
This change helps children find parents sooner rather than wait forever in the referral cycles, and it also makes the process faster for those parents who are willing to love a child without rigid preferences.
4) Assessment of the parents through a home study report
It is one thing to want a child, but parenting one is an entirely different ball game. In the adoption process, a home study report by a social worker is mandatory for PAPs to become eligible for adopting a child. The home study report, and a questionnaire, now focuses on making PAPs think about and explaining their preparedness for adopting a child, besides just evaluating the PAPs motivation to adopt.
Prospective parents need to explain how they plan to support the child financially and emotionally, how they will introduce the child to their existing children (if any), how they plan to take out time for the child, and so on. This not only helps the social worker make an assessment but helps the parents to ensure that they are putting the need of the child first.
5) Root search even for children under 18 years of age
It is normal for adoptive children to be curious about their past and the circumstances surrounding their adoption. Some children may want to know more about their biological parents.
India follows a closed adoption model, and no information is given to adoptive parents about the child’s biological parents and vice versa. But the adoption system does recognise the rights of the child to know about their history. Hence, adoptees over 18 years of age can apply for a root search to find out any available information. Now children under 18 years of age can also apply for root search jointly with their adoptive parents.
As mindsets broaden and more and more people choose to adopt, we will hopefully become a more child-centric society regarding adoption. In the meantime, it’s good to know that the Indian adoption system is leading the way in protecting the child.
(Written by Smriti Gupta)