Our ‘Unwanted’ Children 

While being taken into these adoption agencies and CCIs can mean foster care for some, it is the first step on the road to adoption and a new lease of life for others. 

Published: 18th March 2022 06:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th March 2022 06:11 AM   |  A+A-

Education, skill development

Image used for representational purpose only

Express News Service

VISAKHAPATNAM: With gloomy eyes, peeking from behind the rusted window bars of a cramped children’s home, Kyathi, 12, can’t recall much of her early years. All she knows is that she was found on a bench at a crowded railway station when she was just five months old and was taken to the children’s home in Visakhapatnam. Since then, the children’s home has been a band-aid help on her bullet wound. “I sometimes feel it would have been a bit comforting had my parents left any memory of theirs with me,” says a shy Kyathi (name changed).

Carrying a sense of loss, fear of being left out, and, a pain too overwhelming at times in her tender heart, Kyathi is one among 360-odd orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children Andhra Pradesh is currently home to, across 14 Specialised Adoption Agencies and all Child Care Institutions (CCI) under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) of the Women Development and Child Welfare (WDCW) Department. Kyathi’s story is the picture that almost all adoption agencies and child care institutions present. 

Amid the calm yet dreary milieu of orphanages that bustle only on special occasions, children yearn for parental warmth. Behind their innocent smiles and awkward silence are bottled up emotions. An hour of interaction with kids in an orphanage offers a glimpse into their daily routine, a part of which usually looks like this: they study with none to guide them; they eat, with no say in what they want to have; they go to bed, with no one to tell them bedtime stories. 

While being taken into these adoption agencies and CCIs can mean foster care for some, it is the first step on the road to adoption and a new lease of life for others. On the other side are couples, who have long been waiting to be blessed with a child, but for most of whom adoption is the last resort, and for which, the reasons are manifold. 

While a few point towards issues like the long-drawn-out adoption process, and little understanding of the legal process of adoption, some are of the opinion that they want ‘their own bloodline’ in their children. And, there are many unwed, divorced and helpless couples who expose a child to fatal risks by anonymously deserting them.  

State Convener of the Child Rights Protection Forum (CRPF) G Sitaram points out that the number of children available for adoption would be much higher if the non-registered/unauthorised children’s homes in the State and all the children, who are left to struggle for survival on the streets, were included in the legal adoption pool. 

Data from Women Development and Child Welfare (WDCW) shows that more than 3,400 Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) are registered to adopt from the State at present, but just 227 children are available for adoption out of the 363 in-home children in the State. This clearly indicates a lopsided ratio between the actual number of orphaned children and the children in SAAs and CCIs.  

The Covid-19 outbreak left 351 children bereft of love and care from both the biological parents in the State, as per the latest data provided by the WDCW Department to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). Most of them are being taken care of by immediate families. On the other hand, owing to the pandemic’s effect, Andhra saw a 51.28% drop in adoptions across all WDCW-run adoption agencies in 2021-2022.  

Of them, 62 are in-country adoptions and 14 inter-country adoptions. 2019 saw 156 overall adoptions. The State facilitated 161 adoptions between 2020-2022. Of them, Chittoor district facilitated the highest of 20 in-country and 10 inter-country adoptions. 

District-wise data from the WDCW department shows Prakasam district tops the chart with 45 children available for adoption, followed by Guntur (39) Visakhapatnam (37) Chittoor (23) and Nellore (18). Of them, many children are aged between 0 and 6 and were abandoned by their biological parents, and a majority of 130 are identified as children with special needs. Annual data reveals that the in-country adoption rate of children with special needs is declining every year, and the chances of getting adopted of a child above 6 years of age are bleak. 

Speaking to TNIE, Women Development and Child Welfare Director Dr Kritika Shukla said there is a need to sensitize not just childless parents but also the future generations to normalise adoptions and also raise awareness on the legal adoption process and safe surrenders. “Unfortunately, when it comes to people who choose to leave their kids, many tend to opt for illegal abandonment, particularly in tribal and rural areas. Such cruel and unsafe abandonments traumatize the child for life and lead to child trafficking.” 

She explained that the WDCW officials placed cradles at major hotspots like bus stands, railway stations, busy areas, and places of worship across the State during the second Covid wave to put an end to infanticides and sale of kids.

“Rather than throw the child away, a helpless parent can just anonymously, yet safely place the child in a cradle. The parents don’t even need to be involved in any paperwork. We don’t judge them. We look after the children placed in cradles and put them up for adoption after medical care at a hospital. We are planning to increase the count of cradles and place them in area hospitals which are far away from towns,” she added. She also said the District Child Protection Officers in coordination with concerned departments have been working on identifying the children, who are left behind on the streets and on moving them off the streets to Child Care Institutions. 

She emphasised that adoptions should only be done following the legal adoption guidelines laid down through the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) — the nodal agency that facilitates adoptions — as it shields the vulnerable child from domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, forced labour, and other forms of exploitation. It safeguards their basic rights besides establishing a legal parent-child relationship.  

Speaking on the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021, which amends the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, she said empowering District Magistrates and Additional District Magistrates to issue adoption orders not only ensures smooth implementation of law and increased accountability, but also speeds up the overall adoption process in the country, which otherwise is taking years under courts which have to handle an overwhelming load of civil cases. As on February 23, 2022, there are approximately 3,439 Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) registered from the state, many of whom have long been in line waiting to adopt, the WDCW officials said, adding that the pandemic and declining numbers of available children in the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS) got in the way of the already time-taking procedure of adoptions. Of the 2,363 PAPs registered to adopt children in 0-2 age group, a majority of 992 PAPs specified a male child, 699 chose a female child, and 672 PAPs chose not to specify.   

A prospective adoptive parent, requesting anonymity, said, “We have registered for a child in the 0-2 years age group in 2019 and have been waiting to experience the bliss of being called mom and dad ever since. We understand the pandemic led to unexpected delays. But the elephant in the room is not the pandemic but the adoption process itself. It has always been slow in India. We wanted a child in the age group of 0-2 years, but as per the rules, the composite age of both parents will be considered to match us a child, and if the age is above 90, it is no longer possible to adopt a child below the age of 2. In that case, when the waiting period itself is long-winded, we’re unfairly denied a chance.”  

To adopt a child, a Prospective Adoptive Parent needs to upload an application for adoption with relevant documents and register themselves on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS) on CARA website, followed by which the Specialized Adoption Agency officials start scrutinizing among PAPs. Upon confirming eligibility of PAPs, the officials through CARA referral system send them a maximum of three referrals of children who are declared Legally Free for Adoption (LFA) by the Child Welfare Committee. 

A Satyanarayana, District Child Protection Officer (DCPO), Women and Child Welfare department, Visakhapatnam, said the adoption process is mostly dependent on credential verification and home study of the PAPs based on their composite age and seniority on the list. 

“Once an ideal match is found, the child will be placed under pre-adoption foster care of prospective adoptive parents,” he explained, adding that the entire process takes anywhere between 1 and 3 years, and post-adoption follow-up report is conducted every six months for a period of two years. He also said the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Amendment) Act, 2021, is yet to come into force and an official gazette notification is awaited.  

“The inter-country (meaning from other countries) adoptions of children with special needs are increasing steadily since there is a cultural aversion towards children with special needs in India, resulting in referrals of children with special needs being sent to inter-country PAPs,” A Satyanarayana said.  

Unfortunately, if one remains unadopted after living through struggles in SAA up to 6 years of age and in CCI up to 18, the system is reportedly deserting them instead of properly implementing the After Care programme (18-21) once they turn 18. CRPF officials and child rights activists maintain that the situation of After Care in the State is hopeless and the children upon turning 18 are being left to fend for themselves. 

Acknowledging that After Care is not strong, WDCW Director Kritika Shukla said it is through non-government organisations the After Care is run and very few NGOs have come forward to look after children above 18. She added that they have been encouraging NGOs to come forward and set up at least one After Care unit for every district to strengthen the system. 

“All abandoned children should be taken into the CARA adoption pool to avoid delays in adoptions and drop outs of PAPs. The CARA system is such that they never give a certain timeline for PAPs to be prepared on how long they need to stay in line to take the child home. Many PAPs grow impatient and hopeless during the process with add-on stresses, they drop their decision of adopting a child altogether. This is not at all a good trend. There is a need to make the CARA system both child and parent-centric to promote adoptions,” State CPRF Convener G Sitaram believes.

Deprived of parental warmth and support, a majority of the children in orphanages struggle with anxiety and aggression, particularly children with special needs, clinical psychologist Dr Bhavani says. 
At an age when one cries for chocolates, the children in orphanages cry for a shoulder to lean on and someone considerate to talk to. Arjun (name changed), an abandoned child in CCI, Visakhapatnam district, confides he often feels hopeless and dejected. “I used to hope that my father would show up some day and take me home. I haven’t heard from him or anyone for years. When I see my friends getting adopted, I feel happy and envious at the same time, and I tell my caretakers here that I want to get adopted too. I never experienced a mother’s love.” 

Arjun, now 10, lost his mother when he was still an infant. District Child Protection Unit staff rescued Arjun when he was abandoned by his father at the age of 4. Arjun wants to become a police officer and help children like him in whatever way he can. “As much as I feel envious when someone leaves the CCI, I unknowingly cry when someone enters. It’s like I understand their plight without them having to open up to me,” a teary-eyed Arjun says in a choked voice.

The adoption process

A Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) needs to upload an application for adoption with relevant documents and register themselves on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System on CARA website, followed by which the Specialised Adoption Agency officials start evaluating PAPs. Upon confirming the eligibility of PAPs, the officials, through CARA referral system, send them a maximum of 3 referrals of children, who are declared Legally Free for Adoption by Child Welfare Committee. This takes years.

India Matters


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