Child rights activists in India are raising concerns about the three children who were adopted by a Maltese couple and later abandoned as the adoptive parents “no longer wished to care for them.” While there were questions about the nationality of the children initially, a Maltese publication quoted Malta’s Family and Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon on January 21 confirming that the three children were from India.
It all started when the Times of Malta published a report on January 2 stating that three children adopted from outside the European Union (EU) were under state care as their parents wanted to ‘return’ them because the children had allegedly exhibited behavioural issues. Initially, it was believed that the children were adopted through a private Maltese agency named Agenzija Tama. The adoption agency is one of the two agencies listed on the Indian government’s Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) for adoptions in Malta. While Agenzija Tama does not have an official website, it has a Facebook page that is filled with posts congratulating couples on adoptions. It is to be noted that most of the adoptions mentioned on the Facebook page were from India, barring one from Vietnam and a few from Nepal.
Arun Dohle, Director of Against Child Trafficking (ACT), said that a post on Agenzija Tama’s Facebook page dated February 10, 2022 said that three siblings were adopted from India. Speaking to TNM, Arun said, “We don’t know anything about the children or how they are doing. We are not allowed to have any information about adoption cases because of confidentiality, and that makes this all the more concerning.”
When TNM reached out to Agenzija Tama regarding the abandonment of the three children and asked for details, they said that the children mentioned in their February 10, 2022 Facebook post (which Arun Dohle was referring to) were not the same children who were abandoned. However, Agenzija Tama did not divulge any details on whether the abandoned children were adopted through their agency.
The agency’s response to TNM said, “Malta and India have a very successful adoption program and adoption is respected as a very noble act. All entities involved in the adoption process work hard and a lot of preparation and vetting is done, keeping in mind the best interest of the children who need a family to grow in a healthy way and contribute to society at large. About the specific case of the three siblings returned to the Maltese state, they have nothing to do with the siblings adopted in 2022 who have adjusted really well to their new home and are very much loved by their parents.”
Agenzija Tama asked TNM to contact Malta’s central adoption authority for more details but they did not respond. CARA also did not respond to TNM’s queries, citing that information about adopted children is confidential.
Raising concerns about the emotional well-being of the three abandoned children, Arun said, “We do not know the exact reason why the children were abandoned. But, these children have gone to a new country where people speak a language they do not understand. The children are in a new environment and do not know their new parents. Maybe the children were not so nice to their adoptive parents and they did not like it.”
Another child rights activist, Anjali Pawar, Director of the Adoptee Rights Council in Pune, filed a complaint with CARA on January 31 regarding the three abandoned children. Speaking to TNM, Anjali said, “I filed a complaint with CARA because the Maltese government and the Indian government were keeping the adoption of these children a secret. There was no response, so I tweeted about the issue tagging Priyank Kanoongo, the chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and only then there was traction on the complaint.”
Anjali said that the NCPCR has asked CARA for a reply and for the adoption-related documents, but she is unaware of any other development in the matter. She said, “There hasn’t been a proper response from the government. The parents have just abandoned their children. In India, it is a criminal offence to abandon one’s children. What is the Maltese government doing about the parents who did this?”
According to a Maltese media report from February 17, 2022, Minister Michael Falzon said that out of the 23 children adopted in 2021, 19 were from India. Similarly, in 2020, out of the 22 children adopted, 18 were from India.
While CARA has a rule that follow-up reports of the adopted children’s well-being must be submitted for two years from their adoption date, Anjali is not sure if these reports can be used to gauge how the children are actually doing. She said, “Often, it is the parents who write the follow-up reports. We don’t know if the adoption agencies are verifying them. In this case, the parents said that the children are displaying ‘behavioural issues’. But we don’t know what these issues are because the parents wrote these reports.”