Yesterday, we ran the first part of a two-part interview series on adoption, where Sidney Rocha, director, Catalysts for Social Action (CSA) spoke about different issues that parents faced pre and post-adopting a child. Here, we take the interview forward, clearing misconceptions and dispelling doubts and fears about the process.
Would telling a child that he/she is adopted be a tremendous shock for children or it differs from child to child?
Rocha: It definitely differs from child to child because every child is different. Your answers to your child's questions should be direct yet sensitive to the emotional maturity level of your youngster, and what he has already learned and understands about the adoption. Do not dismiss these questions and concerns, but do not overreact to them either. Acknowledge the fact that his family situation is different from that of many or most of his friends. At the same time, do not magnify the significance of his special circumstances, or dwell upon them. Your child's basic needs are the same, regardless of whether he is living with biological or adoptive parents, and most aspects of his life will be the same as those of his peers.
Sometimes, adopted children express a desire to meet their biological mother or father. What does one do in such a case?
Rocha: In India we have a 'closed adoption' system. Some people believe that making the identity of a child's parents quite literally a state secret is a gross violation of human rights. On the other hand, the birth mother may desire secrecy because of the circumstances of the child's conception. Searching for one's biological parents is a complicated affair in India. There is little help at hand. A new set of draft guidelines have been prepared by the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA). Even though provision for root search has been included in these guidelines, it's not certain because of a contradiction within this draft, which makes it tough. While it accepts that the adopted child should be given. "as much information as possible" by agencies, and that "in case of unwed mothers, the same shall be done after obtaining their willingness," the guidelines threaten to de-register any recognized agency that reveals "confidential information on the background of adoptees... to any outside agency or individual." Therefore orphanages do not disclose background information without court's permission.
In foreign countries, birth parents are allowed to keep in touch with adoptee if they wish to do so.
As per CARA guidelines on post adoption process, the following is applicable as far as root search is concerned:
1) The right of the child to obtain information about his or her origins derives from the right to know his or her biological parents as provided for in Article 7(1) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
2) The adoption agencies shall, therefore, facilitate root search by the adopted child, if the child desires to know his or her history but in doing so, the age and maturity of the child shall be taken into consideration.
3) The child's rights must also be balanced against the right of birth parents not to have their identity disclosed to the child.
4) The right of adopted child should not infringe on the biological parents' right to privacy.
5) If the biological parent(s) have at the time of surrender of the child expressed their willingness, in writing, to be contacted by the child when he or she grows up, then all relevant information including identity and address of the parents shall be disclosed to the child but if the biological parent(s) have specifically requested anonymity, then only reasons and circumstances under which the surrender was effected can be disclosed.
6) There may be situations where the biological parent(s) leave some articles etc. with the child during surrender process and such articles must be, to the extent possible, preserved by the adoption agency, to be handed over to the child when he or she comes for root search.
7) A root search by a third party shall not be permitted and the concerned agencies or authorities shall not make public any information relating to biological parent(s), adoptive parents or adopted child.
Is adoption the wonderful thing it is touted to be - do couplessometimes adopt to regret it later, or is this a very difficult thing - weighing on some couples all their life?
Rocha: It is definitely a wonderful experience. So many adoption stories featured in our newsletters and annual reports are a testament to this fact. CARA ensures that the RIPA/SAA/LAPA shall carry out half yearly follow-up visits to the child from the time the child has been placed in pre-adoption foster care till a period of two years after the legal adoption. Copies of the follow-up reports of the children shall be submitted by the RIPA/SAA/LAPA to State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA)/Adoption Coordinating Agency. (ACA). In cases of disruption of adoption, the RIPA/SAA/LAPA shall make efforts for alternate rehabilitation of the child. We came across only one case in our 11 years, where the parents somehow were not happy with the child placed and they recalled their decision and the adoption agency took the baby back and placed it with another family.
Adoption is life transforming…
Rocha: For many people, the word "adoption" means infant adoption. However, there are so many children in the age group of 3 to 6, who are waiting for a family of their own. Parents have so many apprehensions in adopting older children because they feel that the child understands everything by this age, and may not accept us as parents. This is not true because these kids are relinquished to an adoption agency. They watch PAPs coming and taking other children home. They don't understand 'adoption', what they understand is one day their parent will come to take them home and they also will be blessed with those hugs and kisses (love and affection) which a caretaker at the adoption agency cannot give. It is like a blank slate wherein your figure emerges as parents for these children and it is this connection, which will help you and the child to build a lasting bond. Adopting older children comes with a different set of rewards and challenges. I would make a humble appeal to PAPs to come forward and adopt three to six-year-old children because parenting is a joyful experience. On a parting note, I would say those eager eyes are waiting silently for you to come and take them home - make an effort because every child deserves a family. This concludes our two-part series on adoption.
Catalysts for Social Action (CSA)
Tel: Mumbai — 022-67808888,
Pune — 020-24227090, 020-66083777 csa.org.in
The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India which governs adoption in India. cara.nic.in
A resource that aims to connect like-minded people and organizations.karmayog.org/adoption
l The Penguin Guide to Adoption in India by Dr Aloma Lobo and Jayapriya Vasudevan
This guide addresses issues associated with adoption with a combination of facts and personal histories. Available for Rs 225.