Govt adopts online process to help prospective parents

By Pallavi Smart, Pune Mirror | Sep 20, 2015, 02.30 AM IST

Govt adopts online process to help prospective parents
Scandals at two orphanages in Pune triggered the scrutiny on the adoption process in India
This, it is hoped, will cut out the long waits and financial irregularities that the system is currently fraught with.

Pune has the dubious distinction of waking the country up to the unethical ways of adoption agencies. Gurukul Godavari Balak Ashram and Preet Mandir, both city-based orphanages, made headlines between 2007 and 2010, with their scandalous indulgence in child trafficking, opening the can of worms in the business of adoption and evoking the desperate need for strict vigilance. Finally, earlier this month, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) and its Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), has addressed this critical issue by floating CARINGS — a central online portal — to make the whole process of adoption in the country transparent. Inevitably, adoption agencies are not happy about the loss of control this spells.

With this, adoptions in the country can no longer be just a bilateral deal between a particular adoption agency and people desiring to adopt a child. Aspiring parents will henceforth have to register their request on this online portal. In response, a local agency will be appointed to do due diligence on their qualifications as prospective parents and submit a report. Once the report is uploaded, the online system, aided by some human intervention, will match their profile with children put up for adoption across the country, picking six for them to choose from. The entire process will be conducted within set timeframes to cut down on the current protracted waits.

In an order sent to all District Child Protection Offices (DCPOs), Rashmi Saxena, joint secretary of the union WCD ministry stated, “The long list of prospective adoptive parents on one hand and children awaiting adoption in various child care institutions on the other, is a concern that requires immediate attention. Keeping in mind the best interest of children and recognising that a loving family is the most conducive environment for the overall well-being and growth of a child, the government has framed new guidelines governing the adoption of children by streamlining it through an online portal, thereby making the entire process transparent and swift.”

In July 2014, the union minister for WCD had drawn the attention of the Lok Sabha to the dwindling number of adoptions in the country (it was 4,000 in 2013-14, as compared to 4,964 in 2012-13 and 5,964 in the preceding year) to underscore the need to streamline procedures. However, CARA secretary Veerendra Mishra insisted, “More than the issue of shrinking adoption numbers, our endeavour is to reduce the waiting period and associated financial irregularities. Agencies are given Rs 6,000 for each home study report for adoptions. They would register a huge number of parents, take the money, but not conduct the inspection, resulting in long waiting lists.”

Machindra Sutar, officer at DCPO Pune, said, “This is the first time that the adoption process is being centralised in India and that will function under the government’s supervision. Till now, adoption agencies were only asked for periodical submission of data. While the waiting period was definitely long, it was difficult to ascertain if the submitted data was accurate. The new system, with its centralised approach, will not only give more options with its pan-India functioning, it will also provide the government with a procedure to keep a close watch on adoption agencies.”

Adoption agencies are, of course, not happy with the new system. They find it too cold and clinical, lacking the sensitive touch required in handling adoptions. “Agencies are not against transparency. Our apprehension is only that with the computerisation of the process, it will lose its human touch. First hand interactions are critical to understanding concerns on both sides and also maintaining the follow-up required to settle the child in. It is also worrying to send a child to a family not researched by us personally, but by a third person. It also raises the question of whom the adoptive family will turn to in case of any future exigencies,” noted Sunil Arora, president of the Federation of Adoption Agencies, Maharashtra.

Rebutting on this, Mishra said, “I do not understand how we are losing the personal or emotional touch. The process remains the same. There is a house study report done by the agencies. The compatibility issues are closely addressed. CARA and other central agencies stay out of the process.

Agencies will be conducting the process and DCPOs will closely monitor it. The agencies are still given the right to reject a parent, provided they are able to give a convincing argument on paper. In the earlier process, adoption agencies had all the rights and they were rejecting parents on baseless reasons such as complexion.” Interestingly, he added that most of the objections are coming from Maharashtra.

“The new system is certainly a swift process and couples seeking adoption will not have to wait for long. The new system is not only efficient, but also ensures transparency. But, the most important lacuna of the older system is the follow-up of cases. There are no changes in that process in the new system,” observed Yamini Adbe, a city-based child rights activist.