Adoption is still unfamiliar to most Indian women; here we bust some myths about adopting a child in India.
Adoptive families are a tiny percentage of all Indian families. However, interest in adopting a child as a method of building a family is growing among urban Indian women. The phrase ‘we have thought about adoption’ figures a lot in several conversations we have with all kinds of families.
This article is an attempt to talk about some of the myths about adoption in India among adoptive and prospective adoptive families. A lot of these assumptions are not conscious, just instilled in our brains by the way that society around us perceives these concepts. And let’s face it, adoption is not a mainstream choice and that is perfectly okay!
This article does not try to promote adoption in any way. Adoption is not a ’cause’ to be furthered. It is a choice that people make when deciding to build their families. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way in building a family. A family just is.
“Adoption is only for people who can’t have their ‘own’ child”
Adopting a child is a way to build a family. It is not reserved for people who are biologically unable to have children or in any way the last resort. It is true that people adopt if they are unable to give birth. It is equally true that families make adoption a conscious choice and decide to bring a child home before or after a biological child(ren). There are also families who choose to adopt without thinking about the biological route. Every family has its reasons and each reason is equally valid except myth number 2.
“We would like to give a child a home” or “Adoption is noble”
Adopting a child is a reflection of OUR need to have a child in our lives. There are enough families willing and able to adopt. My family is doing no one a favour by adopting. We are helping ourselves! This is a win-win situation, to use management jargon. A home finds a child and all the joy that having children entails and a child finds a welcoming home to ensure his/her well being.
“I am thinking of adoption”
Adoption is a team effort. Whether we talk of a family with two parents or one (who doubles up as both!), it does take a village to raise a child and it is important that the core or the primary care givers are on the same page and explicitly desire adoption as a way to form their family. “We” have to think about adoption as a choice for it to be fair to all parties involved. Extended family can be involved and brought into the picture as appropriate, given how your family functions.
“Children from ‘bad’ families turn out bad”
There are no good or bad people, just desirable and undesirable behaviour. A child is an innocent party that is born into a family. Indian societal stigma intersects with adoption here. Behaviour is not instilled in the genes; it is the result of that person’s circumstances and the influences they are exposed to. So we all try to make sure that our children, regardless of how they entered our families are exposed to a majority of positive experiences.
“Will I be able to treat the child like my biological child?” or “Will I be able to love him/her in the same way as I might have loved a biological child?”
People underestimate themselves a lot. It is great that you think of your child before yourselves. And this is a question that you need to ask and resolve for sure before a child enters your home. Right up there, along with “are we ready to be parents?”
In our experience with some hundred plus families, we are yet to come across examples where children were unloved by adoptive families. Are you mean as a person? Are you able to be nice to a child who visits you? Are there any serious issues you need to resolve from your childhood? Here we are talking about serious issues that might need counselling. If so, you might want to help yourselves before you do anything – adopt, conceive a biological child or even get married.
In most other cases, the answer to this question is a resounding ‘YES’. Do prepare for an adjustment period – easing into any major change in life entails some adjustment. As far as I have seen, no one is hundred percent ready for parenthood. We decide and then do what we need to prepare to the best of our abilities. Adoption is just like that.
Children are different and need different things in various ways from you. Even if you had two biological children, you would end up loving them the same but might do different things for them, according to their needs. One might be withdrawn and another might be an extrovert. You can try your best to be fair as a parent, but that is just Parenting 101, not related to adoption at all.
“How can people give up a child?” or “He/she must be horrible to do this”
Let’s face it, stigma in our society is very high. People who have children that they decide to place in adoption could be from any strata of society; could be pregnant with that child with or without the institution of marriage; or might be so poor that even feeding themselves is a tough thing. Maybe they are just not ready to be parents. Speculating about the circumstances under which a child was born or judging the biological parents for placing the child in adoption are unnecessary.
Whatever be the reasons, making sure that a child gets a life better than what they can provide is a selfless thing to do. Whether we understand it or not, a person who is able and willing to place a child’s happiness above their own deserves our respect. They deserve being represented as a person who did their best by the child that is now in our homes and hearts. The child deserves to hear that their birth parent is fundamentally a good person. Anyone who helped create the miracle living in our homes can’t be horrible now, can they?
“What if the birth parent comes and takes the child away?”
An adoption that is legal is irreversible. A legal adoption in India means that the child has entered the child welfare system through a government agency (hospital/police station), has had the necessary procedures completed (an FIR, a newspaper intimation, time of 60 days for parental rights to terminate, etc.), has been referred to an approved agency that has a current license and is cleared by a court with an adoption order in the names of the adoptive parents. When a legal adoption happens, the termination of the birth parents’ rights is taken care of. In this case, there is no way that birth parents can legally assert their rights after the adoption deed is issued. Also, in a huge majority of adoptions in India, it is impossible to trace the adoption by either the birth parent or the adoptee.
Adoptions that are private placements through a doctor/nurse or any other person without the intervention of the institutions mentioned above are NOT LEGAL. In these cases, parental rights have not terminated. If the birth parent does trace the child, there is a legal grey area. In adoption (as in all other facets of life), the legal route is low risk and most desirable! The waiting, the paperwork and the procedures are there to ensure that the rights of all parties involved are taken care of. Events this magnificent are worth waiting for, hard as the wait might seem in the short run.
‘If I tell my child, he/she will find his birth parent and leave’ or ‘telling my child traumatizes them and messes up their childhood’ or any such variation of ‘should we tell the child the facts of his/her adoption?’
A child’s identity is made up of several pieces of information. Identity is a composite of facts like where he/she was born, their gender, their place among siblings, the identity and history of their families, their current circumstances, their name, their relationships, etc. The fact of adoption is one of the various pieces that make up this identity.
Experts opine that the child be told his/her adoption story (in an age appropriate way) as early as possible. This is to ensure that there is no one day that sticks in the child’s mind that they were sat down and ‘told’ of their adoption. Adoption is a word that is part of the entire family’s natural vocabulary, whether or not the child understands the concept in its entirety. This enables openness in communication, with the child being more likely to come back to his parents for explanations and details about him/herself.
Being a parent is all about building a trusting relationship with one’s child. Trust is built on shaky ground when important facts are hidden. If the relationship is secure, then any interest that the new adult might have in searching for his/her biological parents can be with the adoptive parents’ support. We all grumble about our parents, adoptive or otherwise. And as far as we can see, we mostly stayed!
You may also like to watch this video about the joys and challenges of adopting a child in India.
I am sure there are other myths about adoption that this article could have touched on. Guess what though? The point is to inform, not overwhelm. There are several families that are built through adopting a child, whose daily structure is the same as any other family – yelling at the kids to eat fast, hurrying to get the school bus, worrying about their children’s exposure to inappropriate information on the internet, adolescence…..you get my drift. Adoption parenting is different and that is okay. Every household does the same thing differently, so why should parenting be an exception?
There are groups that brainstorm together and educate themselves. There is experience out there that can be tapped into, like at SuDatta, An Adoptive Families Support Group. Groups such as this have been of great assistance to a multitude of families in several cities in India. They give parents a safe forum to share what they need to and it helps children see that there are others out there just like them.
Positive Adoption Language (PAL) is strongly advocated by SuDatta. Some of the language used to frame the myth statements is not PAL, but only to mirror common usage.
Resources: Basic information on the laws relating to adoption.
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Sangitha Krishnamurthi is a special educator, blogger and mother of three. Her interests include living
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