Are you considering adopting a child? Here are some of the basic rules you need to know about this process.
Who is allowed to adopt a child?
In India, an Indian, Non Resident Indian (NRI), or a foreign citizen may adopt a child. There are specific guidelines and documentation for each group of prospective adoptive parents. A single female or a married couple can adopt a child. In India, a single male is usually not eligible to be an adoptive parent. An exception to this rule is the noted dance instructor Sandip Soparrkar, who has recently adopted a young boy. This is a special case rather than the norm. A single man desiring to adopt a child may be eligible if he applies through a registered agency. However, he will still only be able to adopt a male child.
What are the conditions to be fulfilled by an adoptive parent?
An adoptive parent should be medically fit and financially able to care for a child. A person wishing to adopt a child must be at least 21 years old. There is no legal upper age limit for parents but most adoptive agencies set their own benchmarks with regard to age. For a child who is less than a year old, the adoptive parents can have a maximum combined age of 90 years. Also, neither parent must be older than 45 years.
In the case of adoption of older children, the age of the parents may be relaxed accordingly. For example, for a one-year-old child, the age limit is 46 years, for a two-year-old child, it is 47 years and so on. The upper age limit for an adopted child is 12 years while for an adoptive parent it is 55 years. In the case of an adopted child with special needs, the age limit may be relaxed marginally by the state government, depending on the evaluation of the case. However, in all cases, the age of the parent cannot exceed 55 years.
What are the laws governing adoption?
Indian citizens who are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, or Buddhists are allowed to formally adopt a child. The adoption is under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956. Under this act, a single parent or married couple are not permitted to adopt more than one child of the same sex. Foreign citizens, NRIs, and those Indian nationals who are Muslims, Parsis, Christians or Jews are subject to the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890. Under this act, the adoptive parent is only the guardian of the child until she reaches 18 years of age.
Foreign citizens and NRIs are supposed to formally adopt their child according to the adoption laws and procedures in the country of their residence. This must be carried out within two years of the individual becoming a child's guardian. There is also a Juvenile Justice Act of 2000, a part of which deals with adoption of children by non-Hindu parents. However, this act is applicable only to children who have been abandoned or abused and not to those children who have been voluntarily put up for adoption.
Can a parent ask for a specific child?
An adoptive parent is allowed to ask for a child, as per her preferences. For example a parent may ask for a child of a certain age, gender (if it is the first child in the family), skin colour, religion, special features, health condition, etc. However, greater the specifications, more difficult it is to find a child who conforms to them. This restricts the pool of children available for adoption.
Depending on the adoptive parent's desired details, children are scrutinised to find a suitable match. When a child with the desired characteristics is found, she is shown to the prospective parents. In case the parents are unhappy with the selection, about two more children with the same characteristics may be presented to the parents.
The entire adoption process takes some months to complete. However, when all the hurdles are cleared, you are ready to welcome your new child to the family.