Single, but planning to adopt? Learn what to expect and how single women in India can handle the challenges of adoption.
By Aditi Bose
Reports of the Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption and Child Welfare show that the number of single women who are adopting is steadily growing in India. The question is why? The answer lies in the universal desire to have a family.
Adoption rules in India for single women
According to the Juvenile Justice Act [PDF] that was amended in 2006, adoption means, “The process through which the adopted child is permanently separated from his biological parents and becomes the legitimate child of his adoptive parents with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are attached with the relationship.”
- In India all adoption issues are handled by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), an autonomous body governed by the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
- A minimum age difference of 21 years between the single mother and the adopted child is required if they’re of opposite sexes.
- A single parent should be between 30 – 45 years in age if she wishes to adopt a child in the age group of 0-3 years. The upper limit for a child older than 3 years is 50.
- The single parent should have an additional family support.
- According to the rules the adoptive parent has to be both medically fit and financially settled.
- According to the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 Indian citizens who are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, or Buddhists are allowed to adopt not more than one child of a particular sex.
- For foreigners, NRIs and those Indian nationals who are Muslims, Parsis, Christians or Jews, according to the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890, the parent only acts as a guardian till the child attains the age of 18.
- One can adopt a child from recognised private placement agencies, Shishu Grehas or State Adoption Cells
Hurdles faced by single Indian women who want to adopt
1. Adoption agencies
I asked my aunt, who is married and has an adopted daughter what she thought of the adoption agencies. “It worked well for me,” she said. When I asked her the next question, “And for a single mother?” This was her reply: “I know of someone in Pune who is trying right now but she is having quite a tough time. They keep delaying her process on some pretext or the other.” She is not the only one. Despite there being a law wherein single women in India are allowed to adopt, there are still many agencies across the country that make it tough for single women.
A practicing child psychiatrist in Calcutta, with an adopted child of her own, went on to tell me that she knows of a few divorced single mothers who, “Faced the greatest obstacle from their own parents who said that they were being selfish for not providing a father to the adopted child and that they should re-marry soon.” As the idea of two parents raising a child has been so ingrained in our minds, it’s tough for anyone to accept single motherhood very easily.
When I asked a lady who works with an NGO in Delhi, and who I used to be a tenant of a few years back, her thoughts on the hurdles of single motherhood, she said, “Society’s views are very narrow-minded regarding this group and everyone wants to know about the whereabouts of the father.” Unfortunate but true. Thus begins the battle for respect by most single mothers in India.
A few institutions have mandatorily implemented the use of the mother’s middle or maiden name during admission. But there are still many who refuse admission when the child does not have a birth certificate and a father’s name.
The transition from being an independent ‘freedom enjoying’ woman to one who begins to share her life with another life is not easy. Motherhood is a demanding role even in homes where a partner might be available to pitch in with the household chores. While co-parenting has its own challenges, single parenting can also cause a lot of stress to the single mother. After a hectic day at work when single mothers might long for moments of solitude, they find themselves often burdened by guilt.
8. Telling the child
A friend of my college professor has had good luck when it came to parental support. However, her greatest hurdle was, “When a few people who I used to think of as my friends decided to tell my child (that she was adopted) before I was ready.” Truly, this decision is best left to the single mother.
Support for single women considering adoption in India
Many NGOs, such as Sudatta, help single women in India to cope with this change in their lives. Joining one might help you to form a support group of other like-minded ladies who could share their experiences and advice.
The constant availability of chats and information sharing on various groups globally on the web help a lot. For example, the People’s Group for Child Adoption in India has over 700 online members who offer mentoring to those planning to adopt.
Books on adoption can act as good guides. Some of these are:
- Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft by Mary Hopkins
- Adoption in India: Policies and Experiences by Vinita Bhargava
- Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
4. Prepare well
The scepticism of adoptive agencies as well as the doubts raised by others will reduce when they see how well prepared, committed and confident you are in adopting a child. Evaluate your financial situation minutely so that you are able to show the agency exactly how you plan to provide for your child in the future. Prepare yourself mentally to welcome a new person into your life.
To all those women who have embraced motherhood through adoption, a huge round of applause. Your choice is heart-warming indeed.
*Photo credit: Brett Jordan (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)