Busting Adoption Myths in India

by Aruna Kamath

The practice of adoption has been around for hundreds of years. In the past however, there was a huge stigma attached to this. In fact, until a few decades ago, child adoption used to be a hush-hush affair and reserved for couples who could not conceive. However, over the last couple of decades, much has changed and the society’s attitude towards adoption has changed drastically. With more and more people beginning to accept it, child adoption has become more or less an open affair – and gaining popularity too! Unlike in the past, many nations now also allow cross-country adoption.

But despite all these progressive changes, a lot of myths about adoption exist even today. Couples and individuals are often misled by these misconceptions that compel them to change their minds against adoption. Let’s look at some of the common myths and help you bust them.

Myth: I can’t adopt if I have a biological child

Truth: This again is a huge misconception. You are free to adopt a child after having a child of your own. However, the gender of the child becomes a factor here. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA, under which Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Arya Samaj adopt) allows you to only adopt a child of the opposite gender to the one you already have. There are no such diktats under the other 2 adoption laws, namely the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (GAWA) and the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA 2000, amended in 2006), which has enabled many Indians to adopt a child of the same gender. Your child, if old enough, will be asked to express her views on the adoption, in writing.

Myth: I can’t adopt if I am single

Truth:Single women have the same legal rights to adopt a child as a married couple. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that the trend of single women adopting has been on the steady rise since the 90s. In India, Sushimita Sen – India’s first Miss Universe (1994) and top celebrity idol, created a history of sorts when she adopted her first child at the age of 25. Ten years later, she adopted another girl who was barely three months old.  Ever since, many single and successful career women, craving to experience motherhood have followed suit by adopting kids.
The fact that no discrimination is done by the adoption agencies on the basis of the marital status of the applicant has made it easier for singles to adopt

Myth: Divorcees and widows are not allowed to adopt

Truth:   This was true in the past where the adoption law did not allow single women, widows and divorcees to adopt. But the law has been amended to allow divorced women as also widows to adopt a child. However, women separated from their husbands and engaged in lengthy divorce battles cannot adopt a child.
The amendment also allows a married woman separated from her husband to adopt with the consent of her husband even during the time of divorce proceedings. However, if he changes his religion or is declared to be of unsound mind, no consent from the estranged husband will be required.

Myth: I can’t choose my gender

Truth: This is not entirely true. If you don’t have a child of your own, you are free to choose the gender of your choice. However, if you already have a biological child, you don’t have a choice and hence, have to adopt a child only of the opposite sex.

Myth: I can adopt only of the same caste/religion

Truth:   There is no hard and fast rule as such. You can choose to adopt a child of any caste/religion. In fact, you can even mention specifications such as age, gender, religion, colour, and health condition of the child you wish to adopt during the processing stage. But, this may pose to a big challenge, as finding the child of your exact requirement may take a longer time, thus extending your waiting period.  So it’s better to limit your specifications to the minimum.

Myth: If a birth parent traces my adopted child, they can come and take it away

Truth: This is impossible. Remember, an adoption that is legal is irreversible. If the child has India has entered through the right routes with all the necessary formalities completed, there is no way, that the birth parents can assert their rights, after the adoption deed is done. This is because enough care is taken to terminate the parental rights.
However, in cases where adoptions that are illegal, where the parental rights have not been terminated, there is no legal guarantee. So the adoptive parents are at a huge risk and may get into trouble

Myth: Adoption is an expensive affair

Truth: Well, cost, is a relative term. But for well-to-do families, adoption is not really unaffordable. Under An adoption within India should cost no more than Rs 46,000: registration for Rs 1,000, the home study process for Rs 5,000 and Rs 40,000 for the agency’s official child-care corpus fund. (Adoptions by non-Indian parents have a separate, higher fee structure.) This fee is fixed by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) – the nodal government agency regulating adoptions in India – and has to be strictly adhered to by all the recognised agencies in India.

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