In a detailed 3-part series, we tell you everything you need to know about the paperwork and the legalities of the adoption process-right from registering with an agency to getting a birth certificate that names you the parents of the child. Here, in part 1, we talk about the central regulatory body in India, the eligibility criteria, the documents required, and the registration procedure.
The regulatory body
With the formation of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in 2003, the adoption process in India has been greatly simplified. CARA is an autonomous body under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development and serves as the nodal body for both in-country and inter-country adoption. While it is not mandatory for any Indian couple to register with CARA, it may serve as a good place to start, as it lists all the eligibility norms as well as gives a full list of government recognised adoption agencies across the country.
Adoption eligibility criteria
CARA guidelines specify an age limit for prospective adoptive parents. They are:
- The sum total of the couple's age should not exceed 90 years and neither parent should be more than 50 years or less than 25 years of age if they wish to adopt a child between 0 to 3 years of age.
- If a couple wishes to adopt an older child (above 3 years), the sum total of the couple's age goes upto 105 years though neither parent can be above 55 or less than 25 years old.
- For single parents, the specified age limit is the 30 to 50-year age bracket.
- The age limit may be relaxed slightly in case of a special needs child, but that is considered on a case-to-case basis.
Note: Regardless of the state or agency, the eligibility criteria for adoptive parents remain the same.
Registration and assessment
An adoption agency plays the role of a matchmaker of sorts between prospective parents and a child. CARA guidelines specify that prospective parents can now register with only one agency since the number of children free for adoption is less than the number of aspiring parents. Before registering, a couple has the right to ask the adoption agency questions and clarify any doubts they may have, which the agency is expected to handle with patience and compassion. This is the pre-adoption counselling process to give the couple time to weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision. A registration fee of Rs 1,000 has to be paid to the agency. Prospective parents can mention the preferred gender and age group of the child at the time of registration. The agency then hands over the list of required documents to prospective parents.
Prospective parents must provide adequate proof of his and/or her financial stability.
- If self-employed, the couple must provide 3 years' IT returns statements and 6 months' bank statements and letters on the letterheads of their respective banks, stating that they hold an account with them.
- If salaried, the prospective parents must provide six months' salary slips and letters from their employer/s. Salaried couples must also provide the above-mentioned bank documents.
Apart from financial documents, other documents proving the eligibility of the parents are:
- Proof of identity-passport or PAN card.
- Proof of age-birth certificate or school leaving certificate.
- Residence proof-to prove that the couple has been residing in the same place for more than two years.
- Latest postcard-size picture of the prospective parents.
- Letter of motivation from parents or infertility report*.
- Health reports (number of tests differs from agency to agency).
- Letter from a physician stating that the couple is in sound health.
- Childcare plan ( Parents need to testify that they have made ample arrangements to take care of the new child coming into their home. For example, grandparents are there to help out, or in case of nuclear families there is domestic help that has been hired.)
- Recommendation letters-two from the kin and two from friends stating their opinion about the parenting abilities of the couple.
- Letter of guarantee from a blood relative from either parent's side stating that they are aware of the adoption and will take the child into their care in case something untoward happens to both parents.
Once the agency is satisfied that the prospective parents are in sound physical and mental health and have the financial wherewithal to support a child, it does its best to find a child that bears some physical resemblance to at least one of the parents.
The agency retains a set of these papers and sends another set to the adoption lawyer (appointed by the agency). "If all the paperwork is in order and the parents have agreed for the child shown to them, the legal procedure takes less than a month to complete," informs Dipal Mehta, a Mumbai-based advocate, who specialises in adoption.
* Letter of intent is a letter stating the intent behind adoption-what made the couple or the single parent take the decision to adopt. Earlier (pre CARA), an infertility report was mandatory but now it is not so.