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World Population Day 2017: 6 important questions about adoption in India answered

Do people still have a preference for fair-skinned or male children in India?

Written by Sandhya Raghavan |Updated : June 20, 2018 2:00 PM IST

'Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother' once said Oprah Winfrey, renowned television personality and journalist. What makes a parent is not just your biological functions, but the time, the patience, the effort and the love that you put in towards bringing up a child that is not born to you. There are enough heart-warming stories in the world that will tell you parenthood the most gratifying experiences in one's life. But when you pluck a child from certain destitution and give it a new life, the experience is fulfilling at a completely different level. Despite this, adoption in India is still not a viable option for many families who place a lot of importance of begetting their own biological child.

But is the adoption landscape changing? Definitely, says Savita Nagpurkar the Adoption in charge of Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption and Child Welfare or IAPA. More and more people are warming up to the idea of adopting a child instead of having one of their own. On World Population Day 2017, The Health Site got chatting with Ms Nagpurkar to understand how adoptions work in the country and how IAPA functions as one of the pioneers of non-institutional adoption services in the nation.

Is adoption still the prerogative of the rich and the famous?

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Celebs like Sushmita Sen and Angelina Jolie made it seem to the world that adopting a child is only meant for those of means and not for those from the middle and lower rungs of the society. This is because many view adoption as an act of charity. Ms Nagpurkar is quick to correct me: "Most families who come for adoption are from the higher middle class and the middle-middle class." CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority), Indian government's nodal agency that regulates all the adoptions in the country, has brought about some changes in the adoption scene. (Read:Indian celebs who have adopted)

"Earlier, there was a slab put on the income of the families who are allowed to adopt. The agencies didn't want to give the children away to families who were earning lesser than what was needed to bring up a child. But CARA has since then removed the slab. These days, even families earning as less as Rs 10,000 a month can adopt children, although I don't favour the move. Will they be able to cater to the needs of the children on such a salary? However, if they are sincere about adoption, we motivate them," says Ms Nagpurkar.

Are people warming up to the idea of adoption?

To most Indian families, the idea of adoption is still alien. Even otherwise, only after having exhausted all possible options of conceiving do people considering adopting another child. "But I see a change in the pattern now," says Ms Nagpurkar. She says that families in their early 30s are not wasting their time behind expensive, time-consuming and sometimes fallible techniques such IVFs if they fail to conceive. "Earlier, people would run pillar to post seeking a second and third opinion from different gynaecologists. But nowadays families come prepared for adoption without wasting their time, money and health on expensive medical procedures," adds Ms Nagpurkar.

What do adoption agencies look for in the parents?

Agencies have to ensure that the parents have come to terms with their underlying issues that prevent them from conceiving a child. "We see whether they have accepted their infertility issue before they come to adopt. If the person has not made peace with it or accepted it, he or she may view the adopted child as a reminder of their infertility. The person may end up resenting the child, and it will turn into a whirlpool of maladjustments and misunderstandings. They will not enjoy their parenthood in such cases," she says.

IAPA conducts a thorough investigation of the potential adoptive parent's issues and helps them come out of them. "We have a deep discussion about their infertility and how they can help each other come out of it and deal with their infertility better," says Ms Nagpurkar. We also make sure that the couple knows what they want and what they expect from adopting a child. The agency studies the family closely, especially the personal dynamics of the couple and their relationship with the society.

Do parents come with preferences?

In a country where patriarchy is deeply entrenched, the need for a male child can be seen even during adoption. Indian families prefer sons over daughters for cultural, religious and economic reasons. But Ms Nagpurkar reveals that while some families do ask specifically for male children, there are those who even ask for female children. "Some families have strict preferences, but I cannot say for sure for sure if a higher percentage of people want to adopt boys," she adds.

But IAPA believes opposing the requirements of the families will be counterproductive for the child. Pushing a girl child to a family who prefers boys will make the child susceptible towards neglect or abuse.

But what happens when parents come asking for a "fair and beautiful" child? Ms Nagpurkar admits that the incidence of people demanding fair-skinned children is uncomfortably high; this causes the dark-skinned children to get sidelined. "In such cases, we have to make the parents understand politely that if they had a dark child of their own, wouldn't they accept it? Then why not accept the adopted child the way it is?

"But we understand the families and their motivations. So we have to accept the couple as they are as they have to stay with the child. The bigger issue here is that the child should get adopted, irrespective of its gender or colour," she adds with emphasis.

How important is the child's medical history?

All adoption agencies are supposed to exercise complete transparency as far as the medical history of the children is concerned and IAPA is quite rigorous in its screening procedures. "When the child is brought into the institution, a complete screening is done to detect diseases like HIV, hepatitis and thyroid. Sometimes there may be a window period when the child has contracted something, and it doesn't show up in the screening initially. But even before the child is taken for adoption, even in the case of a lost-and-found child, complete medical check up is done to rule out chances of any ailments. The child is referred to a paediatrician, and its medical history is passed on to its new family," says Ms Nagpurkar.

What common fears people have?

"The biggest fear that most parents have is whether the birth parents would turn up to claim the child and if they would have to give it up," says Ms Nagpurkar. "In such cases, we will have to assure the parents that such things won't happen because we ensure that they don't happen."

"We work at various levels to rule out the claimants if any. If the child is given away by an unwed mother, she may not want to it back. But despite that, the mother is given a 60-day window period for reconsideration if she wants the child. If she doesn't claim the child, we turn to the Child Welfare Committee and declare that the birth parents don't want the child. Then the child is considered for adoption according to the Juvenile Justice Act. CARA then acts as a nodal agency to match the child with potential parents. Once the match is found, they come to us," she says.

While the adoption trends certainly bode well, credit has to be given to the tireless work done by agencies such as IAPA and CARA, the minds operating behind them and the selfless work done by foster families who take care of the children before they are given up for adoption. Through their rigorous procedures, it is heartening to know that they place the well-being of the child above everything else.

Also read: How adoption changed Ram and Sumitha's life

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