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HC framing new rules for international adoptions


By: Swati Deshpande

MUMBAI: International adoptions hold a fascination for many adoption agencies across the country. For the child, it is an opportunity to get a

family's love. But in a rising number of cases, children given in for adoption abroad, are abandoned or forced to come back to India for other reasons. And when that happens, usually they have nothing to fall back on. To fill in this lacuna and to ensure a safety net for cross-border adoptions, the Bombay high court is for the first time suggesting the establishment of a National Children's Trust Fund for their rehabilitation.

Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud is in the process of finalising path-breaking guidelines on foreign adoptions and the steps that need to be taken to ensure the welfare of these children. On Friday, the judge at an in-chamber hearing in which Asha Bajpai of TISS and additional solicitor general Darius Khambatta are participating, the court considered shortlisting several key systemic changes to the procedure. The judge is of the view that children who are abandoned or forced to return to India cannot be left to chart their course through unknown territory and with no institutional help. In a radical proposal, it was suggested that $5,000 should be deposited by each foreign adopting parent/s before the adoption is finalised. The funds thus collected would then be used for supporting children who return to India.

In one case, that is still pending before the Bombay HC, Jennifer Haynes, now 27 and adopted 20 years ago by a US couple, was sent back on certain charges. She moved the high court, saying she has no identity left and nowhere to stay. In another case, a 14-year-old girl also adopted by a US family is now back after she developed psychiatric problems. The question is who would fund her treatment-Wide Horizons for Children (WHC), the adoption agency that had placed her for adoption and then flew her back in 2008 September or Indian government's Central Adoption Resources Agency which gave the permission to bring her back or the Indian Council for Social Welfare (ICSW) under whose care she is now. The Indian council wants the adoptee parents and the WHC to pay for the medical treatment.

The HC has said that proper psychiatric evaluation prior to such international adoptions is also a must.

Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who has dealt with several cases of issues cropping in foreign adoptions, said that what needs to be done immediately is to ensure that records of foreign adoptions must be scrupulously kept by the agency that facilitated it for the 60-year period as mandated by the Hague Convention to which India is a signatory. But the practice is sometimes not followed. On adoption by a foreign national, the process of naturalisation of the child ought to begin immediately.

2009 Nov 16