Adopting a child in India

Posted by: Rohit Nayak

When our son Akash was a year and a half we decided that we could adopt our next child. Over the years I had seen many of my friends adopt and so I had some understanding of the process.

Once we had decided we spent some time talking with our friends and getting names and details of agencies in Pune (where we currently live). We visited three of them, each of them had been strongly referred to by people who had actually adopted from them. Finally we decided on BSSK based on our “comfort-level” with the place.

Once we had decided we spent a hectic week getting all the papers together. Eight months after we applied Aditi came home. She was three months then. We had primed Akash a few months after we applied and by then he was very eager to have his little sister come home.

She is now two and a half and it has been a wonderful time. The rest of this article describes the process for adoption based on our recent experience and the experience of some of our friends.

In A Nutshell

  • Choose the adoption agency
  • File the application
  • Wait for your turn
  • Get the child home
  • Complete the legal formalities
  • Follow post-adoption procedures

Choosing the agency:

All adoption in India goes through a central agency CARA. CARA has accredited several agencies in India to manage the process for you. The agency you choose is important. Since there are so many agencies, choosing one is sometimes a difficult process.

There is no “right” agency as such. There are several good ones in Pune, for example, and people find one better than another based on their background (economic/social), initial interactions with the agency personnel, hearsay from other parents who adopted, current waiting time etc.

I would suggest choosing a place geographically close to you, ideally in the same city. There are a few physical interactions needed during the application process. Moreover, after identifying the baby there is a short period (few days to a couple of weeks) where you have the baby as a foster parent, where you are not allowed to take it outside the city.

It is a good idea to visit at least three agencies before choosing one. You are making a very important decision and taking your time meeting different social workers and seeing the orphanages will let you understand the process better and lets you find an agency closest to your personality!

Filing the application

Once you select an agency you need to file your adoption application. There is a lot of paperwork to be done. But it sounds more complex than it is. Each agency has its own list of documents, but in general you will need identity and financial proofs, references from friends, undertaking from a close relative (to take care of the child in case both parents die early). Also there will be forms that each agency has that each parent fills in. This lets the agency understand your background and upbringing and also makes you think about the choices you have for your adopted baby.

A sample list is provided towards the end of this post.

The Wait

After filing the paperwork with the agency, you get on to their queue. The waiting period depends on various factors: the agency you chose and whether you are applying for a boy, girl or either. Waits tend to be from two months to well over a year. This is one factor for many in a choice of an agency: if you are in a hurry you would go for an agency with a shorter waitlist. If you don’t mind the wait or would prefer it to keep a gap between an existing child a longer wait is fine.

You don’t have much to do during the wait. The agency completes some formalities like a home visit. It also holds interviews and counseling to talk to you about your backgrounds, preparedness as parents and awareness of issues dealing with adoption. You should be frank in these meetings and also ask any questions you may have. Some agencies also have mandatory workshops with prospective parents where senior staff and specialists participate.

The Adoption

When a baby that meets your criteria is available and it is your turn in the list you get called to see the baby. You get to see the child’s medical records and possibly some background information. Please do take the child to a pediatrician and get all the tests they suggest, so you are also comfortable with the health of the baby.

Once you accept the baby it takes a few days for the foster-care agreements to be ready. Then you can take the baby home. Until the court okays the adoption you are foster-parents for the baby. At this time, you also apply through the agency lawyers to the court for becoming legal parents.

The court then sets a date for a “hearing” where you have to meet the judge along with the baby and the social worker and lawyer. The time of the actual hearing date after applying to the court depends on the judge, his load and some luck! It could be anywhere from four to eight months.

During this period you have to submit monthly reports of the baby to the agency and possibly physically visit the agency periodically.

At the hearing the judge will ask you to make some investments on the child’s behalf based on your family income. Usually it includes an insurance policy and/or some recurring savings deposit policy in the name of the child.

You then draw up an agreement on stamp paper with the agency which is the formal request to the judge for adoption. This needs to be registered at a Registrar’s office (same place where you register rent agreements and land sale!) where they take your photographs and thumbprints.

The judge also passes an order (“Court Order”) to the effect that you are now officially the parents. When you have the investments done you should give a copy to the lawyer and he submits it as proof to the court.

You also get a “photo-id” for the child. This is a letter written by the agency with a photograph of the child stating that the child belongs to you.

Congratulations, the process is now done!

Costs

As per law the costs that you required to pay agency include only the cost of bringing up the baby at the agency (food and medical costs) and the lawyers and court fees applicable. The agency is not allowed to solicit any extra money.

I would recommend that once your process is complete, depending on your means, you do make a donation. Most agencies have children in their orphanages that do not get adopted because of some medical condition and your money would go a long way in supporting them or allowing them to keep additional children.

Post-adoption process:

After adoption you need to file quarterly reports for the first two years and then six-monthly for a few more years after that. Make sure that your investments continue as per the court order.

In many places (like schools, colleges) you need the birth certificate of a child as proof. However no birth certificate is issued as part of the regular adoption process. You are supposed to use the photo-id and the court order instead. This is a pain in many places firstly because not every institution knows about it and secondly the child starts feeling different.

Some municipal bodies have started issuing their standard birth certificates to adopted children as well. Talk to your agency as well as the local municipal commissioner and try hard to get one. We are just in the process of starting the process with the Pune Municipal Corporation and will update this post if and when we are succesful!

Notes

  • This document is mainly for Indian parents adopting in India. For foreigners your agency would be in your country and they would tie up with an Indian agency.
  • This is India: unfortunately there are two laws under which you can adopt based on your birth religion. Hindus adopt under the HAMA (Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act) where you become the “legal parents” of the child. Other religions come under the GAWA (Guardianship And Welfare Act) where you are “legal guardians” of the child. For all practical purposes these don’t make a difference. Inheritance of family property and assets are the only place it is affected, but regardless of which act you adopt under you should write up your wills so there is no ambiguity (especially if you also have biological children).Hopefully this discrimination will be removed soon.
  • It is also possible for single mothers and single fathers to adopt (single men can only adopt sons).
  • If it is a first child you can choose to adopt either a boy, girl or say you don’t mind either. However if it is a second child, usually you can only adopt one of the other sex. (Well technically you can adopt another of the same sex, but then the second baby will always be under GAWA regardless of your religion).

Sample List of documents:

All copies need to be attested by a notary. Notaries are available at civil or criminal courts and usually charge between Rs 5 to Rs 10 per signature. Many of the documents need to be in the format specified by the agency.

  • Passport copies
  • Three letters of reference given by close friends (not relatives) who have known you for over five years, preferably with children of their own. The letter needs to say how the referrer knows you and that s/he thinks you are suitable as parents for adoption
  • An undertaking on stamp paper which is also notarised, by a married relative couple (ideally a brother/sister and their spouse) saying that they will bring up your adopted child in case of your untimely death.
  • Medical certificates
  • Proof of financial status (income tax statements, bank statements)
  • Police Verification

Links

  1. Central Adoption Resources Agency: The regulatory body in India that deals with all matters relating to adoption.
  2. Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra: Pune based adoption agency

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