India’s population— around 158 million consists of children in the age group of 0-6 years. India is home to 472 million children upto the age of 18 years and comprising 39 per cent of the country’s population.
There are roughly 30 million orphaned and abandoned children in India— that’s almost 4% of the youth population.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), India has 29.6 million orphaned and abandoned children. However, figures provided by private organisations showed that in 2017, of these 30 million children, there were only 470,000 children in the institutionalised care. And, of these, roughly half a million children, only a fraction finds their way into family care because adoption rates in India are abysmally low. This means that there needs to be a huge readjustment in the Government’s focus on child development, as currently, millions of children are being denied opportunities to live a life of safety and good health.
Adoption rates in India have always been low, but they have been dropping in the past few years. The Government’s Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) statistics show that in 2010, there were 5,693 in-country adoptions, while in 20 1 7-2018, there were only 3,276 in-country adoptions. This fall occured because out of approximately 30 million children abandoned, only 261,000 are under institutionalised care, accounting for a meagre 0.87%.
Firstly, there aren’t enough children available for adoption because the ratio of abandoned children to children in institutionalised care is lopsided. Seeing children on the streets is the most common sight in India. The District Child Protection Officer should be taking the street children to a Child Care Institution (CCI), and if their parents aren’t found,
then they should be placed for adoption
Disability and Adoption
In January 2020, CARA held a national consensus to discuss the possibility of improving and streamlining the adoption process. Among other points of discussion, it stated that the
institution prepared a classification of children with special needs, spanning 14 sub-categories. The categorisation would enable prospective adoptive parents to understand the children’s needs better and enhance their chances of adoption.
However, according to the latest available data shared by CARA, only 40 children with disabilities were adopted between 2018 and 2019, accounting for approximately 1% of the total number of children adopted in the year. Annual trends reveal that domestic adoptions of children with special needs are dwindling with each passing year.
At the same time, foreigners adopting children with special needs is steadily rising since prospective adoptive Indian parents faced with a long waiting period for a ‘healthy’ baby, end up adopting children with disabilities as a last resort. The cultural aversion towards children with special needs results in most of them being referred to overseas prospective
Central Adoption Resource Authority:
The year 2015 saw a moment of transition in the adoption process with the introduction of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). CARA is an autonomous and statutory body of MoWCD under the Government of India. The system acts as a centralised digital database of adoptable children and prospective parents.
It functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions. CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the 1993 Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, ratified by the Government of India in 2003.
It primarily deals with the adoption of “orphaned, abandoned and surrendered” children through recognised adoption agencies. In 2018, CARA allowed individuals in a live-in relationship to adopt children from and within India. Although the main focus of the CARA mechanism is to quicken the process of adoption, the waiting period is growing longer.
Stakeholders in Adoption Process
Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)—CARA ensures smooth functioning of the adoption process from time to time, issues Adoption Guidelines laying down procedures and processes to be followed by different stakeholders of the adoption programme.
State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA)— SARA acts as a nodal body within the State to promote and monitor adoption and non-institutional care in coordination with CARA.
Specialised Adoption Agency (SAA)— SAA is recognised by the State government under sub-Section 4 of Section 41 of the Act for the purpose of placing children in adoption.
Authorised Foreign Adoption Agency (AFAA)— AFAA is recognised as a foreign social or child welfare agency that is authorised by CARA on the recommendation of the concerned Central Authority or Government Department of that country for coordinating all matters relating to adoption of an Indian child by a citizen of that country.
District Child Protection Unit (DCPU)— DCPU is a unit set up by the State government at district level under Section 61A of the Act. It identifies orphan, abandoned, and surrendered children in the district and gets them declared legally-free for adoption by Child Welfare Committee.
The Ministry is administering various schemes for the welfare, development and
protection of children. To achieve the above objectives, the Union Cabinet has recently approved 3 important Umbrella Schemes to be implemented in mission mode. i.e., Mission Vatsalya, Mission Poshan 2.0, and Mission Shakti.
In this Mission, Children have been recognised by policy makers as one of the supreme national assets.
The objective is to secure a healthy and
happy childhood for every child in India; foster a sensitive, supportive and synchronised ecosystem for development of children; assist States/UTs in delivering the mandate of the JJ Act 2015; and achieve the SDG goals.
The prime objective is to address gaps in State action for women and children and to promote inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral convergence to create gender equitable and child-centered legislation, policies, and programmes.
Mission POSHAN 2.0:
It is an Integrated Nutrition Support Programme which seeks to address the challenges of malnutrition in children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers through a strategic shift in nutrition content and delivery, and by creation of a convergent ecosystem to develop and promote practices that nurture health, wellness and immunity.
It seeks to optimise the quality and delivery of food under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme.
Under the programme, nutritional norms, standards, quality, and testing of THR will be improved and greater stakeholder and beneficiary participation will be promoted besides traditional community food habits.
POSHAN 2.0 will bring three important programmes/schemes under its ambit, viz., Anganwadi Services, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and Poshan Abhiyaan.
This Scheme envisages a unified citizen-centric lifecycle support for women through integrated care, safety, protection, rehabilitation, and empowerment to unshackle women as they progress through various stages of their life. Mission Shakti has two sub-schemes ‘Sambal’ and ‘Samarthya’.
All the three Missions will be implemented during the 15th Finance Commission period 2021-22 to 2025-26.
The PM CARES for Children Scheme was launched on 29 May 2021 to support children who have lost both the parents or legal guardian or adoptive parents or surviving parent to Covid-19 during the period starting from 11 March 2020.
The objective of the Scheme is to ensure comprehensive care and protection of children in
a sustained manner, and enable their well-being through health insurance, empower them through education, and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support.
The PM CARES for Children Scheme inter-alia provides support to these children through convergent approach, gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and lumpsum amount of Rs 10 lakh on attaining 23 years of age.