In part 1 of this 3-part series, we elaborated the process of registering with an adoption agency, the eligibility criteria, and the required documents. In part 2, we detail the journey from registration to the day the baby comes home. Though, while registering, a couple is usually told that the wait can be up to a year or longer, anecdotal evidence suggests that the adoption process, in most cases, takes less than a year to complete.
'Legally free for adoption'
- The phrase, 'legally free for adoption' is of paramount importance and it is imperative that prospective parents understand what it means. It means that the child has been willfully surrendered by the birth mother, who will have no further claims on the child. The birth mother of a newborn is given up to two months, if she wants to give her child up for adoption. Once she decides to surrender her child, it is irrevocable and she cannot claim the child at any later date.
- According to adoption laws in India, agencies are prohibited from sharing information about either of the two parties (the adoptive and birth parents) with each other.
- The adoptive parents will, however, be told when the child was surrendered and its age at the time. Once the child has been surrendered to an agency, the birth parents cannot stake any claim on the child at a later date.
- If any such incident does take place, the adoptive parents have the right to report the matter to the police and the birth parents will then be reprimanded for causing mental harassment to the child and the adoptive parents. But most CARA-registered agencies claim that this is an extremely rare scenario.
- Once the agency has identified a child for the prospective parents and are satisfied that the couple's profile matches that of the child's, they assign a social worker for a home visit. Through this, the agency tries to find out more about the family and asses the relationship between the would-be parents.
- Prospective parents are made to fill out an extensive questionnaire that asks everything from their family history and their relationships with their parents and siblings while growing up to their ideas about child rearing.
- During the home visit, the parents need to pay a fee of Rs 5,000 to the social worker in the name of the agency he/she represents. If a couple wishes to adopt a child from a state other than their state of residence, they will need to find a CARA-registered local (the city/state they wish to adopt from) adoption agency, who will then assign a social worker to conduct a home visit for them.
The right connect
- Once the agency identifies the child, prospective parents are asked to visit the adoption agency to meet him/her. If the parents like the child, they can go ahead with the rest of the procedure.
- If however, the parents feel that the child identified by the agency is not a perfect fit in their family, they are free to not 'accept' the child. In such a case, they must give a written explanation on why they are 'rejecting' the child.
- CARA states that prospective parents can meet up to 3 babies from one agency, post which they will have to shift to another agency. This again, is a rare scenario since agencies take utmost care to match the profiles of the child with the parents.
- The adoption agency conducts extensive medical investigations before the child is shown to the aspiring parents. The adoptive parents are allowed to go through his/her medical reports and show them to a doctor of their choice.
- Many agencies allow the parents to take the child out for a short while for a visit to the family physician to check the validity of the reports as well as conduct an external physical examination. Some agencies may not allow the child to be taken out, in which case the physician can come down to the agency to examine the child.
- The parents may choose to conduct additional medical tests at their own expense if they wish to.
- However, in case of an infant, they cannot prick the child or expose him/her to any kind of radiation.
- Once the medical formalities are over, the parents are allowed to take the child home on a date stipulated by the agency. This is also the date when a formal petition for adoption is signed at the family court in the presence of the lawyer appointed by the agency and the superintendent of the agency.
- Though the child can be brought home after the completion of this procedure, the child is now in, what in legal jargon is known as, the 'foster care' of the parents. "In a metropolitan city, the 'foster care' period may be up to 3 to4 weeks, depending upon when your case comes up for hearing in a family court," informs Dipal Mehta, a Mumbai-based advocate who specialises in adoption.