Barriers to adopting a baby in Andhra Pradesh
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By Padmini Copparapu
May 1, 2013 / postnoon.com
Last week, a daily wage labourer was caught selling his one-month-old son for `1.5 lakh in Nizamabad. Neither the cruelty of the act nor the ‘going rate’ came as a surprise for those working in the child protection arena. Baby boys are a precious commodity in the Andhra Pradesh adoption scene and reports of buying and selling of children are more commonplace than anyone would care to admit.
India has the highest number of population under 18 in the world. It is also home to 20 million orphans in the 0-17 years age-group, reveal reports based on the latest National Family Health Survey. Furthermore, it is estimated that over 100,000 of these children are currently being housed, raised and passed out of one or another type of institution — an orphanage, a state-run home or hostel, a juvenile facility — or anywhere except amidst the comfort of a family and a real home.
In 2010, and the tenth year of its operations, the Central Adoption Resource Agency still had only a tragic 6,200 adoptions to show for itself, out of which nearly 600 were inter-country adoptions. The AP story is no different.
The number of adoptions in the State in the past 13 years amounts to a measly 2,030, which accounts for less than 160 children being put up for adoption in a given year. This, in the context of Childline’s estimate, that there are currently over 40,000 orphans living in Hyderabad alone.
Interestingly, this is not due to a lack of takers. Project directors and child development officers say that the number of prospective parents far outnumber that of the available children today, some of whom have been waiting years to adopt.
So then why this bewildering lag? Those in the child welfare and protection community answer.
The elusive male child
Gender is the singular reason there are no matches between children available and couples in waiting, say officials. “Typically, male children are rarely surrendered, relinquished or abandoned. In contrast, for every other couple that did not want (their first/another) girl child ends up an orphan. Therefore, our girl-boy ratio is highly skewed. There are couples that have been waiting for 5-6 years for a boy child and willing to wait further but still don’t even want to consider adopting a baby girl,”says child protection officer, ICDS, Srinivas K and adds, “it became so severe, we stopped taking requests for boys.”
Age is not just a number
While children under 18 are all eligible for adoption, sishugrahas house only those below five years of age, who have the most likelihood of being adopted. Children above six years end up in a home where they will spend the rest of their years until they are forced to leave at the age of 18. “Kids above five years remember everything. They already are forming personalities and have a will of their own. Besides law provides for the child above six years to have a say in their adoption process. Prospective parents are fearful that they’ll come with baggage, or that they can’t handle them or that they will reveal their history to everybody. Either way, once they cross the threshold, they become unwanted,” says sociologist and CWC Rangareddy member K Krishna.
Private Agencies,please excuse
One positive explanation for the low figure, officials say, is that AP is perhaps the only major state where there are no private agencies with the power to handle adoptions. Only the 23 State-run sishugrahas hold the right, therefore limiting the numbers but which social workers say is a good thing. “Sure, the State procedures are cumbersome but at least private players with a profit motive are not involved. Also, because there are check and measures in place, it means there’s less chances of adoptive parents being unstable, neglectful or abusive,” feels activist Geeta Ramaswamy.
Beating the system
Some officials claim that the adoption numbers here are low because the number of abandoned children is lower than in other States. But social workers refute these claims and cite another reason. Though agencies are not involved, they say cases of trafficking and illegal transactions are aplenty. In many instances, a child is bargained for and bought and sold before the matter reaches official networks. “A newly born in a hospital is already booked and paid for, so that in effect the adoptive parents are recorded as biological parents, negating the need for any checks. It’s the easy way out for many couples, and they’re completely off the record,” says Isidore Phillips, founder of NGO Divya Disha.
Demands of Protocol
Not even half of registered applicants are qualified, say officials. Legally, all prospective parents are subject to a house study which requires them to prove themselves to be emotionally, financially and socially stable. “So many of them furnish false data. People who say they have homes and jobs and social standing, when investigated have nothing. And we have rule each one after the next until we find a match, so it takes time,” adds Krishna.
A significant percentage of abandoned children that don’t account in the adoption math is that of children with special needs/HIV infected kids who are not considered ‘adoptable,’ and generally relegated to the care of an NGO. “Usually special needs go for inter-country adoptions. Nobody really shows any interest here. We prefer to keep them in an NGO where they’re least taken care of nicely,” says project director of Shishugruha, Vishakhapatnam, Chinmayee Gurram Konda.