HYDERABAD: Legal adoption in the state has become difficult after the reorganisation of districts. Shishu Gruhas, which facilitate adoption of and support to abandoned and orphaned babies aged below 6 years, are still only 11 in number and all of them are situated at the headquarters of the erstwhile districts. Child welfare experts say that the centres, apart from lacking accessibility, do not have enough staff and facilities, and the way they are operated causes confusion.
These centres are said to be inaccessible to a large chunk of the population. This has resulted in babies landing in illegal trafficking network. Achyutha Rao, a child rights activist of Balala Hakkula Sangham, explained that some parents wishing to abandon their children due to some disability or disease and if they cannot travel to a centre, they would simply end up selling the child to a trafficker.
“It can be very hard for a parent living deep inside a rural area to travel to the Shishu Gruha that is closest to him or her. We have observed that parents simply abandon their child without support or, worse, sell it to a trafficker if this distance is too much of a trouble for them,” he said.
Battle just begins
When a baby is inducted formally to a Shishu Gruha, it still does not mean that its future is assured to be safe. The Child Welfare Committees which operate these centres are severely short-staffed, causing long delays in the adoption process. “For an adoption to be formalised, a member of a CWC has to physically see the baby personally, and that can cause a lot of delay,” said Mamatha Raghuveer, chairperson of Tharuni, an NGO.
With only 11 Shishu Gruhas and 11 CWCs operating today, detecting illegal baby selling racket is becoming a challenge. “Tribal people, instead of getting trapped by illegal traffickers, can give their babies to the Anganwaadi workers who, in turn, can hand them over to the Shishu Gruha. Yet, the illegal sale is unabated because parents and those seeking to adopt a child think that it will take days to complete the formality in a legal way. Often, it takes three or four months for a baby girl to get adopted and up to one year in the case of a baby boy,” added Mamatha.
Authorities, however, say that they are trying their best to resolve the problem. It was only recently that district child protection offices had new recruitment to keep a tab on the illegal network. The department of women development and child welfare says that they are proposing establishment of a Bal Raksha Bhavan in each district which can centralise all efforts put in to safeguard the rights of the children.
intellectually challenged kids overlooked
Despite an increasing number of babies getting adopted, officials at Shishu Vihar in Hyderabad with 220-odd children in its shelters say that parents still discriminate against children with intellectual disability while seeking adoption of children. “We have many children coming in with some difficulties, both physical and intellectual and with milestone delays, such children often get overlooked as parents don’t opt to adopt them,” said an official at Shishu Vihar.
At present, there are 70 children among the 218 in Telangana’s largest shelter home for kids aged below 6 years who suffer from some kind of birth defect. The situation becomes worse, inform officials, as an increasing number of children who are being admitted to the home having one or the other kind of birth defects makes their care difficult for parents.
“It is only parents from abroad who would not mind a baby with some birth defects but parents in India still don’t opt to take care of special needs children,” said Lakshmi, joint director of women development & child welfare.
They attribute this to possible lack of facilities in India and also to stigma. Keeping in view the increasing numbers and lesser scope of adoption, Shishu Vihar has recently been sanctioned more gadgets. “We have recently had a few cases of cerebral palsy which can make motor activity of the children stunted. We then got special equipment for therapy to rectify and improve the situation early on,” explained Dr Anupama, on-call doctor. Babies with major defects to their organs are also being treated