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Child Adoption Procedure In India: All Common Questions Explained

Posted: October 5, 2010

Today, many Indian women are considering adopting a child in India. Learn how to go about the child adoption procedure in India.

The wish to adopt a child comes purely from the heart. Yet, other aspects such as the financial, legal and procedural too need to be looked at. Children placed for adoption have no one to speak for them, except the adoption laws and procedures framed to protect their best interests. Despite a possibly longer wait, the approved legal route for child adoption in India ultimately guarantees you peace of mind.

Before adopting a child in India, remember! 

– Register for adoption with either an Adoption Coordinating Agency (ACA) found in each state’s capital city, or an agency certified by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in New Delhi. CARA is a division of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

– You can get into trouble with the Law if you adopt from unlicensed orphanages or Children’s Homes, the streets, hospitals, lawyers, doctors or social workers. It may also lead to a tussle with the birth parent, or exploitation by fraudsters and middlemen.

– Children adopted illegally have been denied rightful inheritance and benefits by the extended family once their adoptive parents have passed away or divorced.

The basic child adoption process in India

Here are some quick facts about domestic adoption procedure in India by Indian nationals. The process and costs for international adoption are not covered here.

Disclaimer: Please cross-check all information given below with a lawyer experienced with adoption matters and with your agency, since adoption laws, guidelines and procedures change periodically. It is also useful to get in touch with a parent who has recently adopted from that particular state or agency. 

– Prospective parents register at a licensed adoption placement agency or ACA with all the required documents. Pre-adoptive counseling may be suggested.

– The waiting period begins once the agency’s social worker draws up the home study report.

– When the agency identifies a suitable child, they call the prospective parents to meet the child.

– If the parents approve, some agencies may hand over the child once a foster care agreement is signed.

– Meanwhile, the agency’s lawyer files a petition to adopt on behalf of the couple with the Court or Juvenile Justice Board, depending on the law under which the adoption will take place. An Order for execution of the adoption deed is granted.

– For the most part, the agency representative and the parents register the adoption deed at the Registrar’s as proof of the completion of the adoption, and then apply for the birth certificate.

FAQs about the child adoption process in India

Do adoption procedures in India differ from one state to another? 

Adoption laws are common across India and must be distinguished from guidelines followed in adoption procedures, which do differ from one state to another. For an understanding of the laws, please refer our earlier article on Adoption Rules In India and the listed resources.

While the macro steps in the adoption procedures in India are similar across agencies, there may be chances of more legwork or paperwork than you had initially been informed of. You can adopt from any Indian state, but your home study will be done by the ACA of the state you currently reside in and then can be transferred.

Is there a minimum/maximum age limit for prospective adoptive parents in India? 

The adoptive parent and child should have an age difference of 21 years or more. Couples with a combined age of less than 90 (with neither spouse older than 45) are eligible to adopt an infant. For older and special needs children, the agency has the discretion to relax the age limit for the prospective parent up to 55 years.

Most agencies prefer couples to have been married for at least 5 years before adopting a child; however, this is again at the discretion of the agency. A single person between age 30 and 45 years can adopt a child.

Can I adopt if I already have a child? 

Yes. The gender of the child becomes a factor here. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA, under which Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Arya Samaj adopt) allows you to only adopt a child of the opposite gender to the one you already have. There are no such diktats under the other 2 adoption laws, namely the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (GAWA) and the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA 2000, amended in 2006), which has enabled many Indians to adopt a child of the same gender. Your child, if old enough, will be asked to express her views on the adoption, in writing.

Is there a minimum income needed to for adopting a child? 

As per CARA, couples must have a minimum average monthly income of Rs. 3000. Lower income may be considered considering other assets and support systems e.g. your own house etc.

Does adoption ensure the same legal rights as for a biological child? 

Under the HAMA, a child adopted by a couple has the same rights as a child born to those parents. Neither the adoptive parents nor the child can overturn a valid adoption. Adoptions under the GAWA only appoint the couple as guardians and the child as ward and do not grant permanent rights to name, religion, maintenance or inheritance. This necessitates extra precautions to protect the child’s rights.

Can a single/divorced woman adopt? 

Certainly! Under the HAMA, a female Hindu who has never married, has divorced or been widowed, can adopt a son or a daughter. She will have to also show an additional family support system and may have to appoint a guardian for her child, in the event of her untimely death. Do read this more detailed article on adoption by single women in India.

Can a single/divorced man adopt? 

Actually, yes! As per CARA, a single parent has equal legal status to adopt a child, and to deny him/her on grounds of single status is not only a violation of his/her legal right, but also his/her constitutional right guaranteed under Article 14 and 15. A single male can adopt only a son.

How much does adopting a child in India cost? 

The HAMA prohibits payments made or demanded in consideration or reward for adoption to the birth parents, agency or relinquishing guardians. These payments amount to trafficking in children, and may result in imprisonment or a fine or both.<

CARA has a fixed fee structure for adoption. Charges outside the stipulated headings are not legal.

– Registration fees: Rs. 200
– Home study report: Rs. 1000 + actual travel allowance (TA)
– Maintenance charges not exceeding Rs. 15,000 at the rate of Rs. 50 per day from the date of admission until placement in foster care.
– In the case of special medical care, hospitalization charges subject to a maximum of Rs. 9000 may be claimed on production of actual bills.
– Legal fees and scrutiny fees are as per actuals.

How can one find the status of one’s application for adopting a child? 

Keep in regular touch with the agency or ACA you registered with. As per CARA, the agency must do the home study within 3 months of the date of registration. You have a right to know from the agency about developments or reasons for delay. As of now, there is no centralized database of waiting parents or children that would help you know your status.

How can I determine the health of the child shown to me? 

Prospective adoptive parents have the right to take the child shown to them for a general check-up by an independent pediatrician. All CARA-certified agencies run HIV and Hepatitis B tests on the children in their care. Most agencies dissuade invasive tests by prospective parents unless there is any medical indication of a serious health issue.

The agency also must furnish any non-identifying details about the child’s and the birth parents’ medical history, if known. Additionally, the adoptive parents will be given any medical bills and records in the child’s name.

Adoption is a simple, private, legal process that builds happy families. Contrary to popular belief, the adoption procedure in India rarely involves red tape. A little document gathering, some legwork between the agency and Court, and suddenly you will find the child born in your mind and heart, warmly ensconced in your arms. It’s worth the wait!

Further reading resources (print books):

1.Adoption in India: Policies and Experiences. Vinita Bhargava. 2005, Sage Publications.
2.The Penguin Guide to Adoption in India. Dr. Aloma Lobo, Jayapriya Vasudevan. 2002, Penguin.
3.Ours by Choice. Dr. Nilima Mehta. 1992. (online edition also available)
4.Adoption: What, Why, When, How. Padma Subbaiah.
5.A Family for Every Child: Perspectives on Adoption in India. 2009, Catalysts for Social Action.

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