Adoption: The Ultimate Guide
Planning to adopt a baby? This is arguably the biggest decision you can make as a family. Apart from the emotional aspects, there are also specific watch-outs/ honest questions you need to ask yourself and your partner and practical realities you need to be aware of.
At BabyChakra, we know you are not alone and your questions/ doubts are normal. Which is why our MomStar Rhituparna shares a candid, practical and straight from the heart perspective on adoption. After all who better to share her thoughts, than a mom who has been through the journey herself. This is a must read for those readying themselves for this big step!
1. Decide what is important: the baby by itself which is the purest form of human existence, or where it comes from? Conviction in being an adoptive parent and being happy with your decision is the FIRST and INEVITABLE step towards becoming a parent. There are many tests that one has to take as you go forward.
If you are worried about what will your parents and –in-laws think, then take a few steps back and question your conviction. If you are firm, you will have answers to all their questions. Believe me, once you have the baby with you, the whole world comes together to serve the baby. All doubts are washed away in the fraction of a second.
If you are on the horns of a dilemma, thinking will the child be upset when he/she learns that you are not his biological parents, our advice is - keep the faith in your love. Most importantly, the child can be made privy to the truth in a way as normally as a child knows that he/she has come from the hospital – through stories of Lord Krishna and other similar folklore. It is a big existential question for any human being – so the earlier the child knows, the easier is the acceptance. There are several books today by Indian as well as foreign authors. You could read those before starting the process.
2. The next step is to look up the website of the Central Adoption Resource Authority of India (CARA): www.adoptionindia.nic.in and register there. In the current format, you will have to choose an agency nearest to your residence (For finding one, you may have to do some local Google) during the registration process. You must also go through the qualifying criteria on the CARA website itself.
3. The next step should be to get an appointment with the agency to discuss your case. If you are a first-time parent, your chances are higher. Parents who have been blessed with a baby of their own and want to adopt their second one, should build a stronger case for themselves as they are normally given the second preference. An important clarification here – NO PARENTS ARE ALLOWED TO SELECT A BABY OF THEIR CHOICE. The parents are only asked about their preference on age of the baby and gender.
Hold your Breath! There's a lot more hard work ahead of you before you can even see the baby. Adoption is clearly not baby shopping! It is in your minds, very similar to holding one in your womb. Until you deliver, you only dream about the baby and imagine how the baby would look like or behave... For the fathers – You any way get to only make a beautiful picture of the baby in your minds.
4. The hard work in this case involves several rounds of meeting the agency and loads of documentation. If they don't trust your conviction fully or even to make 100% sure that you are fully capable and mentally ready for becoming an adoptive parent, they call the couple for individual as well as group (as a couple) interviews, followed by counselling. They like to know EVERYTHING about you – your childhood, the parenting you experienced, your thoughts on parenting, how will you share with the child that it is not born out of you, the chemistry the couple shares, how did your parents and –in laws react to the decision of adoption etc… And the person on the other side of the table is usually a well-trained social welfare professional who will not let you gauge what your answers are indicating to them. There's absolutely nothing to be afraid though. Like I said, it all depends on how strong your belief in your decision is…
5. The documentation too involves everything possible: your bank account statements, your property documents, your educational qualification, the would-be mother's medical reports and a statement by the doctor stating why she couldn't conceive… etc. Others include recommendation letters from people known to you on why they think you are fit to be an adoptive parent; police verification (this could take a couple of weeks atleast)etc. For working mothers, there's one document that's a bit difficult to obtain – A legal undertaking from the person who will take care of the child while the mother is away at work – that could be a daycare centre, a nanny or a maid. This is a requirement by the court so, is not optional. To find someone reliable to sign this undertaking, is the challenge. Daycare centres are also hesitant in signing up a legal document stating the child will be duly cared for, in absence of its parents. It does not augur well with their business, even though they are ready to commit the same verbally. In all, putting together these documents itself takes nearly a month or more, to be realistic. The ones mentioned here are representative, you must check with your agency as well as the CARA website for the current guidelines.
There's another legal undertaking to be signed by the mother stating the commitment she has for the child and the last one, preferably by a younger sibling of any one of the parents, stating that they will raise the child in the event of demise of both parents.
6. Once the agency has all your documents, the agency normally visits your place to audit the safety and hygiene aspects of your house and if they see something grossly incorrect, only then they point out else they are fine.
7. The adoption officer typically then presents your case to the agency management and maps the baby as per your choice (No, you don't get to see the baby yet).They try to match the baby with you physically but again it is subject to one's visual perception. If everything goes fine, they will call you to come and see your 'DREAM CHILD'! Usually, the agency should have a consulting pediatrician, yet for your own peace, you could request one of your choice to come and see the baby at the center and check for any health issues. Whether you would like to take home one with health issues or not is entirely your choice (The agency might have already confirmed this with you earlier). Once you accept or decline for any reason, there's a signed declaration that the parent (legal petitioner is usually the father) must fill. In case you decline, then you are in queue for the next baby but this again is subject to availability and your luck ;-)
8. There are certain documentations that must be done after confirmation too, but typically they would like you to take the baby home as soon as possible. (You may have to arrange logistics at home in a rather short notice and prepare for the baby's homecoming!!).In this period, they also ask you to spend time with the baby on a daily basis, trying to feed the baby etc… This already makes you feel like a mother On your BIG day, you must also have two eye-witnesses along with you (that could be any family member other than the adoptive parents or, friends). What next – Get ready to do the nappy changing, feeding and have sleepless nights!
9. The final steps could be done even while the baby is with you – the registration process with your local authorities, the visits to the court for the legal word … after which you get the adoption deed, generate birth certificate etc. It is advisable that you already how you would call your little one by this time as it will reflect in all documentation from hereon. There are certain other legal requirements to be fulfilled like issuance of an insurance policy in the child's name but these are minimal. Overall, the process is not very expensive as many might think, including the fees of the agency, it is in the order or INR 50K including registration, house study charges etc.
In future, the agency is likely to visit your place once in 6 months upto 2 years of adoption, to gather progressive updates about the child's welfare.
10. Many people ask whether there is a prohibition on having one of your own after adoption. Well there's no force in the world that can stop you from doing so – it is entirely the call of the parents and history has it that several mothers have magically delivered another little one after bringing home the first one. The thought however, must not be to adopt one in order to await one of your own. This is unfair to the child, who made you parents in the first place.
PS: This process is bearing in mind families living in India. For NRIs, the process is slightly different and could be more cumbersome. Nevertheless, CARA website is the starting point for them as well.