A recent decision by the government to give single women above 40 years preference in adoption has drawn flak from all quarters, including those it seeks to benefit. Adoptive mothers and activists say that the government needs to look at better ways to support single mothers instead of helping them jump the long queue for adoption. A government steering committee on adoption, headed by secretary of women and child development ministry, recently decided that single women above 40 years who are financially stable will be given antedate seniority of six months once they register for adoption, a move that is likely to reduce their waiting time to almost half as compared to all the other prospective adoptive parents in the queue. "While the intention of the government is good, it has not addressed the root cause. There is a need to sensitise those who decide whether an applicant is fit to adopt or not. They need to be unbiased in their approach towards single women who wish to adopt a child," said a single mother, J S Supriya. Often, they were reluctant to consider a single woman as a "worthy" parent, she said. The government, it seemed, was not bending over backwards to undo the wrong. But Supriya held that she was in favour of a "fair process" instead of one that benefited a section of parents at the cost of others. Avinash Kumar, a member of the government's steering committee as well as an adoptive parent who has set up a support group on adoption called Families of Joy, said there could be different ways of providing support to single mothers. "Campaigns could be held to increase awareness and fight social stigma. They could also be helped through counselling or through financial support," Kumar said. An aspiring single father, requesting anonymity, said the government should take steps to make the adoption process, which could involve a waiting period of up to 15 months, easier for all applicants instead of only addressing the concerns of some. "I feel the adoption rules are already tilted against single dads and add to that a long and tedious procedure. The government should look at ways to bring more orphaned and abandoned children into the adoption pool," the 25-year old man said. According to data from Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), the apex adoption body, there is only one child available for adoption for every nine parents registered, leading to a long waiting queue. Of the 1,766 children currently available for adoption in the country, only 59 are below two years of age, which is the age group that adoptive parents opt for. Compare this with 15,200 registered adoptive parents, of whom a "few hundred" are single women over the age of 40, a ministry official said. Experts said it was possible that all children under the age of two could go to the category of single women if they were given a preference, which could be discouraging for other parents. "This would make the procedure even more difficult for other parents.
It could also force them to opt for unlawful means of adoption, thereby encouraging human trafficking," Kumar said. CARA's top official, Lt Col Deepak Kumar, however said the move would only marginally affect others wanting to take home a child. "Single women above 40 years will not be on top of the waiting list. They will only be given an antedate seniority of six months. This could perhaps affect others by only 3-4 weeks as these women are only two per cent of the total adoptive parents registered with us," he said. He said the government wanted to help single women as it had noticed quite a few of them were applying for adoption. "After 40, time is of paramount importance as you want to plan and move ahead. Also, surrogacy law doesn't permit them to opt for surrogates so we decided through this we could provide them with some support," he said. After three months, the step would be reviewed to see if it "severely affected" other applicants, CARA's Kumar said. He also highlighted the need to bring more children into the adoption pool. "Child care institutes (CCIs) such as orphanages are required to be registered under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2016. But this is not happening. According to estimates there could be as many as 50,000 orphaned and abandoned children at several CCIs that are not recognised," Kumar added.
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