An estimated 29.6 million stranded, orphaned and abandoned children live in India, of whom only 4,000 are adopted each year.
While thousands of prospective parents are waiting to adopt in India, there is still a stigma associated with adoption that deters many.
A social movement must develop so that adoption is considered before other alternatives, such as surrogacy or IVF.
There are many life stages that change the direction of our lives. Becoming a parent is one of those turning points. Parenthood changes the way we live and the way we think. When our daughter came into our lives, via adoption at the age of four months, it changed all of our lives for the better.
When we decided to adopt, we registered with the Central Adoption Resource Authority-Nodal Agency for Adoption in India (CARA) which is a legal requirement. After two and a half years of waiting, we were matched with a little girl and after completing the legal formalities, we welcomed her into our family.
Our daughter is extremely happy and energetic, but she was abandoned in a forest by her biological parents. There she was bitten by insects and caught bacterial infections. Thanks to paramedics from the emergency services, she was saved. Although we were warned that there was a risk that she might suffer from kidney disease, luckily our daughter was healthy. I tell this very personal story to draw everyone’s attention to the issue of abandoned children in India.
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India has a huge problem with children without parents
It is estimated that there are 29.6 million stranded, orphaned and abandoned children in India, of whom, according to CARA, not even 500,000 reach institutionalized care and only 3,000 to 4,000 are adopted each year.
As of July 2022, there were over 16,000 expectant parents in India awaiting adoption referrals, but the number of children legally available for adoption is far below that. In addition, nearly 260,000 children live in 7,000 childcare institutions (CCI) in the country.
In India, if there is no family to care for an orphaned or abandoned child, the government steps in. However, only abandoned children, who cannot be cared for by the extended family, can be adopted by strangers. This is a paradoxical situation where there are a large number of parents ready to adopt, but few children among the millions of abandoned or orphaned children available for adoption.
When a child is abandoned (and this is normally immediately after birth) it is often disposed of inhumanely – thrown into the bins or left in the bushes or along the road, etc. Abandoned newborns are sometimes barely covered. They are exposed to extreme temperatures, rain, insect bites and injuries that impact their overall health and well-being, some of these children do not survive. This is a violation of the fundamental right to live with human dignity under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
CCIs are authorized to take in abandoned children and they even place cradles, cradles, baby hatches, etc. inside which people can safely leave their children. Yet, unfortunately, people often do not use these secure environments. Maybe it’s because they don’t know them, fear they’ll be spotted using them, caught on CCTV or by the police, etc.
The problem is complex and difficult. To address the issue of crib points and its awareness, the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Road Transport and Highways and their internal departments should endeavor to make crib signage mandatory and implement it across India. Through my “Make Cradle Signage Mandatory” campaign, India became the first country to introduce Cradle Signage to the world.
Apart from this, the government could also offer more support to those considering abandoning children and encourage the use of cribs. They should offer counseling to avoid abandonment and provide financial support to those who cannot financially care for their children, etc.
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Reasons for Low Adoption Rates in India
The reasons for the low levels of adoption in India are manifold. Firstly, there are not enough children available for adoption, because the ratio between abandoned or orphaned children (29.6 million) and children placed in institutions (500,000) is very unbalanced and even in this cases, many children in care are not eligible for adoption. This situation is further exacerbated by the endless social stigmas of caste, class and genetics, which continue to be a major deterrent. Even today in India, the majority of families do not plan to adopt a child whose parental line is unknown, an attitude that must change.
Even infertile couples often do not consider adoption. Ironically, while there are millions of children without parents, there are a growing number of infertile couples. According to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, 27.5 million couples, or nearly one in six couples, living in urban India have fertility problems.
Improving child adoption in India
We have what you might call a “chicken and egg” situation. The best strategy in such situations is to opt for a “push” or “pull” approach. A complex problem like this requires strong demand-driven institutional pressure. This attraction can be easily initiated through the Citizen-Private-Government-Institution (CPGI) model. India has improved literacy rates, quality of education, narrowed the gender gap, reduced malnutrition, improved infant mortality rates, and more. their demographic or economic strata.
Increasing adoption rates in India should also be a goal of international institutions, such as the United Nations. And the adoption movement must learn from successful programs, such as the institutionalized organ donation movement. ‘Organ India’ raises awareness about organ donation and transplantation through social media, movies, animation, radio, TV, blogs etc. He also runs engagement program campaigns involving celebrities who pledge to donate their organs and further engage citizens.
We need a movement like this, perhaps called “Adopt India”, which fills the gaps in needs, cleans up social stigma and puts adoption as the “first consideration” ahead of other alternatives, such such as surrogacy or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Corporate India could provide additional perks and benefits to employees for adopting children, such as maintaining physical fitness, involvement in social causes, or even providing direct financial returns in the form of cash or donations. actions. A few companies, such as NatWest, Cyient, Cure.fit, and Diageo, are leading the way in India.
There is a strong need for a detailed study of middle-class childless couples who have flourished to succeed. We need to map their attitudes towards adoption, create archetypes and strategize to channel adoption consideration among the largest segment in India.
India will continue to be one of the youngest countries till 2050. For all countries, children are their future capital. If this demographic advantage is to be reaped, they need guidance. It is therefore important to realign our policies towards children to give them a better chance in life.
Vidyadhar Prabhudesai is Co-founderLeadCap Ventures
This article originally appeared in the World Economic Forum.
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