CARA Helps ‘Hard-To-Place’ Kids Find a Home Through E-Commerce
Last month the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) won a platinum award for smart governance at the 46th Skoch Summit in Hyderabad. Little did this statutory body under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which facilitates the process of placing children with adoptive parents, realise that its innovative e-spirit would draw considerable flak from certain quarters.
Critics likened CARA’s use of an e-commerce technique to help babies find a home with the incentive of bypassing a long queue to a flash sale by an e-commerce store.
Why the Waiting Period Has Been Waived?
CARA has 10,000 prospective parents from India registered on its online portal Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System called CARINGS and about 500 from overseas. It has close to 1,800 children who need to be placed with families, 50 percent of these are children with special needs, which could be any of the 74 listed physical or mental disabilities. Now with CARINGS, it is no longer a location-based matching process but has a wider base.
CARA’s CEO Deepak Kumar explains his reasons for waiving aside the usually long waiting period.
There are certain medical conditions which do not warrant the child to be placed in the ‘special needs’ category. But when prospective parents go through the Medical Examination Report (MER) or the Child Study Report (CSR), they do not accept these children. We also a face a problem with children who are six to seven years old as Indian families do not want older children. These children are legally free for adoption but have not found homes. We want to de-institutionalise these children and place them with a family at the earliest. These children fall in the realm of ‘hard to place children’. So we filtered such children from the system and put them in the ‘immediate placement category’.Deepak Kumar, CEO, CARA
Using Technology to Its Advantage
Confident that the criticism will die down once CARA’s intention is understood, it plans to make this a weekly process.
In the first hour itself the 50 children that CARA had put up were reserved by prospective parents. CARA will review the situation after 15 days and is prepared to see half the number of those interested backing out after seeing the children. But determined to use technology to its advantage, the efforts will continue.
CARA began as an agency but after the Hague Adoption Convention in 1993 it evolved over a period of time into an autonomous body. With the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 it has become an authority. Today almost 425 specialised adoption agencies are registered with CARA, which is now trying to link up with thousands of child care institutions so that those children too can be placed with families.
Ethics of Online Adoption
Earlier parents would have to directly approach an adoption agency and they could register at just one agency. Now with CARINGS, they register online, upload all relevant documents, they choose the agency that would do their ‘home study’. This entails checking the background of the parents, what their childhood was like as this would have a bearing on how they would bring up the child, the home environment, financial security and emotional security. When prospective parents go on to CARINGS, they have to choose three states in India from where they would like the child.
With the introduction of CARINGS, many ‘special needs’ children are finding homes abroad.
While CARA hopes to bring in more transparency and speeden up the process, a Kolkata-based secretary of an adoption agency says, “Sadly those who want to violate norms can still do that. Yes, children are being placed faster, but agencies are charging more than the prescribed Rs 40,000. The main problem is that parents want the child desperately so keep quiet about it. We are at fault if we keep quiet so we have brought this up with the authorities.”
While CARA does look into the complaints against agencies, it has a set of complex issues to handle. For example, a child had already been with the family for over a year when CARA received a complaint about how the parents had paid three times the fee. Since the child had integrated into the family, it obviously could not take back the child. Punitive action could be taken against the agency but closing it down and de-recognising it cannot be done overnight as close to 40 children have to be placed elsewhere. Kumar says, “We have to handle issues sensitively. Human lives are involved.”
Ensuring the Interests of the Child
CARA differs with social workers who feel that the earlier system of matching the baby‘s physical appearance with the parents was a crucial area. A social worker says, “We were taught that it is important to try and see the child fits into a family, lookswise too. He should not be a misfit. Now it is a numbers game, any parent for any child.”
Kumar feels that , “Babies are not commodities. There are parents who want to do baby shopping. If biological parents find that the child does not look like them do they abandon the baby? Adoption is never a parent-oriented process. It is always a child-oriented process. We are looking at the interest of the child.”
Saroj Sood of Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption, who did her first adoption case in 1963 points out, “Courts have to speed up the legal process to declare the child free for adoption. Delays result in the child languishing in homes instead of being with a family. Indians too have come a long way and there is a huge change in perception. Many families are coming forward to adopt.”
The ministry of Women and Child Development has already approved Adoption Regulations, which will be notified in the next few months. The aim is to give every child a home and curb unethical practices.
(The writer is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)