Kerala child-missing case: The adoptive parents are also suffering

A court stayed the adoption procedure of a child, under the suspicion that it could be the baby that Anupama and Ajith have been looking for.
Anupama and Ajith
Anupama and Ajith
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On Monday, a family court in Thiruvananthapuram stayed the adoption procedure of a child that a couple believe was born to them in October last year. Anupama and Ajith have come out in the open a few days ago, alleging that Anupama’s father, Jayachandran, a CPI(M) leader, had abandoned the child without their consent. The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Thiruvananthapuram that takes care of abandoned children said that two babies came to them in October last year. A DNA test conducted on one of them proved that it was not the couple’s. The CWC is facing criticism as the other baby was adopted into foster care reportedly in August this year, four months after Anupama made her formal complaint of the missing child.

Several prominent persons have opined in public that the baby – if the DNA test proves that it is Anupama and Ajith's – should come to the biological mother. While the biological parents’ loss can be easily identified with, little has been said about the adoptive parents who would have gone through years of trouble to get a child of their own. As the CWC, the police and other institutions failed to act on Anupama's complaint, they have failed not just the child's biological parents, but the adoptive parents too.

“My main concern is that while the emotions of biological mothers are being highlighted by those backing Anupama, no consideration is being shown for the emotions of adoptive parents. Other than the long wait for adoption; which is a cumbersome process, many adoptive parents are also those who may have gone through years of infertility treatment. It takes no time for the child to become part of their life. Separating the children from them could lead to mental trauma,” says Arjun R, an adoptive parent from Kerala.

While reporting on the missing child case of Anupama, one media person said that they actually went to the house of the adoptive parents and spoke to them, although they didn’t telecast the interview. In the adoption process, confidentiality is very important. Neither the details of the child nor that of the adoptive parents should be given out. But clearly, these details were leaked from the CWC, which is already under fire for not acting on Anupama's complaint for months and for many other anomalies in the same case.

The baby is currently in pre-adoption foster care. This is the first step of taking a child home when adoptive parents will be given charge of the baby for a certain period before the formalities are complete. 

“None of this would have happened if proper procedure was followed before the pre-adoption foster care took place. Neither would the biological parents have had to fight for their own child, nor would the adoptive parents go through mental health issues,” says Meena Kuruvilla, former member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), former state coordinator of Adoption Coordination Agency and first programme manager at State Adoption Resource Agency.

“Adoption is a long process. Some adoptive parents wait for several years before being able to get a child. It is a wrong notion that orphanages are filled with children who can be adopted and childless couples should simply go there and adopt. Almost 95% of the children in an orphanage are not fit for adoption. They will have one or the other parent – perhaps a father who went to jail or a mother who can’t take care of the child on their own. They are not orphans on the record and therefore they are not fit for adoption,” says an adoptive parent who hails from Kerala.

The process begins with online registration at the site of Central Adoption Resource Agency. The adoptive parents should upload all the necessary documents asked of them. In turn the adoption agencies will update the status. “There will be a matching referral, depending on the age of the adoptive parents and children. Once a match is found, a photo of the child and a child study report are sent to the adoptive parents. If they accept it there will be a physical meeting. Even at that point the couple may refuse to adopt the child after stating the reason. On the other side there is a committee formed of a specialised adoption agency, the district child protection unit, the CWC and a pediatrician, who will approve the documents and decide if the adoption can proceed,” Meena says.

Once those stages are passed and the parents file a petition for adoption at the family court (of the district from where the child is adopted), the pre-adoption foster care process begins. This may take a few months, after which the court gives the final verdict. That’s when the adoption process is complete.

“In Anupama’s case, the child is going through the pre-adoption process. The court will decide if the child should be returned to the biological mother. Here, both sides have rights, and one or the other will be wronged either way. That’s why such lapses should be avoided before a child is deemed fit for adoption,” Meena says.

She cites another case in Ernakulam when even after a child was willingly given up by the biological parents for adoption, they later made claims for it. The adoption process had long been over. Even then, the Kerala High Court said that the child should go back to its biological parents. The adoptive parents in that case have approached the Supreme Court.

Arjun feels that the ongoing row could further aggravate issues for couples who wish to adopt. “Even now there are couples who are not able to adopt owing to lack of support from their families due to social stigma or other reasons. Support of families is very important for adoption.”

Arjun and his wife who went through a lot of hassles to get a child wonders how everyone, including the Health Minister of the state could be so insensitive to the adoptive parents. “Minister Veena George stated that in order to ensure the child's protection and care, it has to be with its biological parent. How can she say so when we are frequently coming across incidents in which biological mothers willingly or unwillingly become part of crime against children. It is not 'biology' that matters but the chemistry of love and affection. Society may see an adopted child only as an adopted child, but for the adoptive parents the word adoption fades away in the above mentioned chemistry of love and affection. Pregnancies can be accidental, but adoptions are out of genuine interest to have a child,” he says.

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