- Mathurs are amongst the finest couples I have ever come across. Mr.SudhirMathur, 38, is an executive in a reputed firm whereas Mrs. Monika Mathur, 32, runs a painting school. Married for no less than 10 years, they are issueless, however. Both are very keen to bring up a child with love and devotion. “God has not been kind to us on this front,” they confided to me one evening, “and, what is worse, the doctors are no longer hopeful we can have a child born to us.”
- Patels, aged 40 and 32, have a school-going daughter of 10. Over the past many months they have grown terribly fond of a fiveyear-old spastic boy in the nearby school for the handicapped. Often, the couple discuss if the little darling could be reared by them just as the daughter born to them is being brought up.
- At 40, Ms.Amita Sharma, a successful career woman, considers marriage out of question. Nevertheless, she is awfully eager to bring up a child with, as she says, “love, dedication and commitment” just as if he is born to her.
- Mr.Surjit Singh Dhillon and his pretty wife, Poonam, were recently hit by a wretched tragedy. They lost both children, aged eight and six, in a car accident. Very fond of children, they are in a fix as to what to do. “Life is losing meaning for us,” Mrs.Poonam tells the visitors. Adoption – yes, adoption – could well be the answer to the problems of all these folks.
What is adoption in precise terms? Well, adoption means bringing up a son or a daughter who was not born to you but who is legally now your issue and grows up under your loving care and security. The child, no doubt, satisfies your need and, perhaps, fills the vacuum in your life. At the same time, he needs to feel that he belongs to and is deeply and sincerely loved by you now and for all times to come, just as in the case of a biological child if you were to have one!
It is unfair to adopt a child with the aim of having a helper, to look after you when you grow old, or to hold back the hubby. Also, it is unwise to expect the adopted child to play a “ghost” for a child who has died. There is no point in adopting a child if one of the would-be parents is half-hearted and equivocal for adoption. The adopted child must belong completely and there must not be any element of ambivalence on the part of any of the parents.
What should be the age of the child to be adopted? The time-honoured rule is: the younger, the better. However, since older couples are now beginning to opt for adoption, the age of the adoptive child needs to match with that of the parents. A 10-year-old child may be fine for a couple in the late 30s or early 40s but he will undoubtedly be rather odd for a couple in their 20s.
A prospective adoptive parent may have apprehension about the social and genetic background of the child to be adopted. Remember that more than the social background of the original parents, it is the new environment and the sense of belonging that he is given which influence the personality development of the child. Such social ailments as delinquency, immorality or alcoholism are not inherited.
As regards the question of hereditary disorders, let it be borne in mind that these are, by any standard, infrequent. A small risk in adoption is certainly there. But, then, all human relationships carry some risk. Don’t they?
The fixation for adopting a child of a relative is outright unfounded. More often than not, the child comes to know about his biological parents and is bound to be torn between two establishments. Not just that, the biological parents often claim him back at a later stage.
Likewise, it is not quite in order to take the child in adoption directly from the biological parents or through a third person who may choose to act funny sooner or later. The biological parents may someday try to get the child back, thereby ruining the happiness of the child as also of the adopting family.
All said and done, child adoption is best arranged through a noted child adoption agency. These agencies employ experienced workers to find the child most suited to the prospective adopting parents whose confidentiality is respected and who are not only helped in the process of completing legal formalities but also provided with emotional support during the waiting period.
Most adoption agencies, besides interviewing the prospective adopting parents on several occasions to find out how genuine their desire to adopt is and how much support they can offer to the child, ask for such documents as income certificate, health certificate and recommendation from three prominent citizens. Expenses to be incurred include service charges (depending on income), foster care charges and medical charges (incurred by the institution), court fee and lawyer’s fees. The court stipulates one year follow-up action by the concerned agency. Once adoption becomes final, it is easy to obtain a new birth certificate with the child’s new name and new parentage.
Never, make the mistake of keeping the adoption a secret from the child. He must know the truth as soon as he is old enough to understand. Parents must be clear on this point and speak to the child in some such way:
“It so happened that I grew increasingly keen to have a cute child with a fair complexion, black hair and brown eyes. So, I ran from pillar to post, looking for such a child. At long last, I went to an agency and spoke to the person-in-charge about my desire. The good lady brought me a child who was exactly what I had dreamed of. I said: ‘O, goodness, what a darling! I shall adopt her, love her for ever as my child.’ That was you.”
This story will delight the child and give her a feeling of pride. This will project the positive side of adoption. In the years to come, she will come closer and closer to you, regarding her adoption by you as a mark of distinction.
To the query about the child’s biological parents, you may answer thus:
“Well, somehow they were not in a position to take care of you. But, we were. And, now you are going to be ours for ever – yes, for all times to come.”
Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption (IAPA)
The IAPA was launched in the year 1970 with the aim to:
- Create a public platform for the need of a family for a child;
- Create awareness of adoption, especially amongst Indians, both resident in India and abroad, so that abandoned/ destitute children can find loving homes;
- Promote uniform adoption legislation to enable minority communities as well to adopt children legally.
Over the years, there has occurred a further expansion in the Association’s objectives which may now be summarised as follows:
- To endeavour to give children to a family who have none;
- To awaken public opinion regarding the need and importance of a family for a child;
- To create social climate for the promotion of adoption;
- To promote appropriate legislation for adoption, safeguarding the rights of minors;
- To assemble adoptive families for the purpose of sharing their experience and discussing their problems;
- To promote and safeguard the interest of adoptive families and prospective adopters;
- To collect information, literature and such other material as will increase knowledge concerning adoption;
- To do such other things as are essential or conducive to the attainment of the aforesaid objectives of the Association.
The Association provides a place to which people could go for information and guidance. Its trained social workers can bring together the abandoned children and the prospective adoptive parents and counsel them on the procedures to be followed. The social workers also make a home study to make sure that only suitable children and parents are brought together.
If you wish to contact the Association, you may please note its address:
Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption,
Diners House, 1st Floor,
Veer Nariman Road, Mumbai-400023
Adoption: the legal position
What a pity that the existing adoption law is aimed for Hindus only and is miserably incomplete and no longer in line with the changing times! It often proves a bottleneck in the way of a prospective child to have a home, a family and dignity of being a respected citizen. As Mr.Mohinder Singh, a Supreme Court advocate puts it, “Like the Special Marriage Act, there should be an enactment of a comprehensive Adoption Law applicable not only to one sect of persons but to all so that the children may be helped by the prospective parents.”
Legal position for Hindus, including Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists
(i) Adoption of a child whose biological parents are alive. Section 10 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, states that only a person, male or female, if he/she is Hindu and has not already been adopted, has not been married, and has not completed the age of 15 years (unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties to the adoption which permits persons who are married or have completed the age of 15 years) can be adopted by the person capable of adopting the Hindu child.
Who can adopt? According to the Act, any male Hindu who is of sound mind and is not a minor has the capacity to take a son or daughter in adoption, provided that, if he has a living wife, he shall not adopt without her consent, unless the wife has completely and finally renounced the world or ceased to be a Hindu or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind.
Can a female adopt a child? Yes, provided that she is of sound mind and not a minor and not married, or, if married, whose marriage is dissolved or whose husband is dead or has completely and finally renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu, or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind.
Who can give in adoption? According to the Act, only the father has the right to give the child in adoption. But, this right has to be exercised with the consent of the mother, unless the consent of the mother is unnecessary. If the father is not alive or he is not capable of exercising his right to give the child in adoption, the mother can give the child in adoption.
(ii) Adoption of a child whose parents are dead, have completely and finally renounced the world, have abandoned the child, or have been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind or where the parentage of the child is not known. This category of children are usually left in hospitals, foundling homes or institutions of children. They need to be placed in suitable families which offer love, a sense of belonging and fine upbringing.
According to Section 9(4) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, the existing guardian of such a child may give the child in adoption either to himself or to another person with the permission of the Court which must satisfy itself that the adoption would be in the best interest and welfare of the child. No person, either adopting or giving in adoption, can give/receive or promise to give/receive any payment or reward in consideration of adoption except such as the court may sanction.
Legal position for non-Hindus
Under the provision of Guardian and Wards Act, 1980, a person other than a Hindu can also be appointed as guardian of the child provided the Court is satisfied that the appointment of a guardian of the minor is in the interest and welfare of the child. The Court also has the right to revoke the appointment of a guardian, if in its opinion, the appointment of the guardian is no longer in the interest and welfare of the child.
Adoption and your paediatrician
As an adopting couple, if you wish to have a hassle-free adoption, make it a point to take your paediatrician into confidence before going ahead with child adoption. He is likely to be of help to you in several ways. For instance –
- He may assist you to seek adoption from an approved agency which is actually the right process.
- His competence may facilitate your psychosocial assessment and preparedness.
- His association may provide you the necessary safeguard by providing correct information about the health status of the child.
- He makes available to the family benefits of his advice for the emotional problems of the adopted child as a consequence of your overindulgence and overprotection.