PREFERENCES FOR A CHILD: Though not mandatory, you have the option of choosing the age, sex and even region you want your child from. There are three age brackets to choose from: zero to two, two to four, four and above. Remember, the minimum age difference between the child and you should not be less than twenty five years. Most parents in India look for a child under the age of two because it’s easier for younger children to adapt to their new parents and home. “I wanted to know what it was like to raise a child from birth. I wanted that motherly experience most women describe as magical. I didn’t want to miss out on taking caring and nurturing an infant,” says Shefali Simmons who adopted a four-monthold last year. However, if you decide that you want to adopt an older child, seeking professional help in the form of counselling is recommended because parenting older kids proves to be more of a challenge.
When choosing the sex of the baby you want to adopt, it once again boils down to one’s personal preferences. However, as stated earlier, a single male prospective parent can only adopt a male child. “Some parents I know preferred a girl because they wanted to make the gender norms right; they believed they could raise a girl, and do things differently and better,” saya Sangitha, who incidentally is also a member of Sudatta, an adoptive parents support group in Bengaluru. “Some go for the gender that their extended families or in-laws prefer,” she adds.
When selecting the state or region you want to adopt from, most prospective parents tend to stay closer home. The simple fact remains that when the need to travel does arise, the distance isn’t too much, it’s easier on their finances, but more importantly, they won’t have to travel a great distance with a baby on board.
BE PATIENT: Once you’ve initiated the process, it’s all a matter of waiting. Adoption is a lengthy process and the wait time can sometimes take years. Once you register online, you will be on the wait list for a baby; you’ll be given a number and this can normally be anywhere between 300 to 400. Just remember, prepare yourself mentally for the stress of waiting. Read and learn as much as you can, and perhaps prepare your home for the arrival of your newest family member while you wait.
LEGAL FORMALITIES: When you’re nearing the end of your waiting period, you will receive two to three profiles of children, based on your preferences. When you do review the profiles, you must look out for three aspects—the age of the child, medical reports to ensure he is healthy and a document stating the he is cleared for adoption. Your decision to adopt should be based on those criteria. “I chose the age group zero to two. When I received the profiles, I selected the four-month-old because the other two children were both above the age of one,” says Shefali.
You then bring the child home from the agency under foster care. The social worker overseeing your adoption will help you with all the legal proceedings, and you will be required to attend court. For an adoption to be finalised, you can expect the legal proceedings to take at least two months. Once the child is home, the SAA in your state will be required to submit a report to CARA every six months for a period of two years.
However, if for some reason you have not been selected by the SAA, or you cannot accept the child you have chosen to adopt, your candidacy for adoption will be moved to the bottom of the seniority list. “It’s not you who chooses the child, the child chooses you,” says Shefali. This is something she’s had to learn through her adoption process. “Don’t lose hope,” she adds. “There is always another child waiting to choose you!” ■
HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT POINTERS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN DEALING WITH AN ADOPTIVE CHILD:
● Parents who work in government jobs can take adoption leave to undertake proper care of their adopted child.
● Make sure you use Positive Adoption Language (PAL) that ensures the privacy of all concerned parties. For example, use the term ‘birth parent’ instead of ‘real parent’, ‘born to unmarried parents’ instead of ‘illegitimate’, etc.
● Formulate a plan on how you’ll make your child aware that he has been adopted. It’s better to prepare for such a situation before he fi nds out on his own in the future. If he does learn the truth unexpectedly, it could be quite traumatic for both you and your child. Moreover, there’s a chance you’ll constantly live in the fear that he will learn the truth in some way. Start early and slowly, but gradually let your child know he is adopted. This will let him process the information to the best of his sensibilities. “Ideally, it would be a great idea to capture memories through photographs. When you go to bring your child home from the agency, take several pictures. This way, your child has something to connect to later, should he want to fi nd his birth parents. It’s also important to note the date, and perhaps the name of the social worker that helped you with your case, just in case your child needs a place to start his search,” says Sangitha. If there comes a time that your child does indeed want to know where he’s from, give him his birth parent’s information (if he was a surrendered or orphaned child), including social background, and circumstances, without revealing their identity, something that is legally confi dential.
● Be respectful of the child’s birth parents. When asked about why they gave him up, simply sugarcoat it. Sometimes, you may not be fully aware of the real reasons. “Say something like ‘I don’t know the real reason, but I am sure they had problems and couldn’t look after you and wanted you to have a better home’,” suggests Nilima Mehta, an adoption consultant, in her book Ours By Choice.
● Remember, you cannot predict how your child might react to the information as he grows up. In such a situation, it’s always better to opt for post-adoptive counselling to deal with any unpleasantness that might arise.
● If you have chosen to adopt a child despite having a biological one, make sure to prepare your biological child for the arrival of the new baby. With adopted siblings, it’s a little different as your biological child will not have been able to connect with his sibling from the time of pregnancy. “My daughter pretty much had to deal with her brother coming home over one random weekend. It was random for her because she didn’t really know about the adoption till it was time for the baby to be brought home. We just had one weekend to prepare her. I used a doll to explain to her that she was going to have a baby brother,” says Sangitha.
● Finally, remember that parenting is not merely biological but a conscious choice you make. Whether it’s your biological child or not, he will need the same love, care, and protection from you.