Being single in our society is becoming common and normal. For some people instead of having a destructive marriage, it is better to stay single. However, single people can also possess parental feelings and a desire to have a child.
India has been witnessing some incredible changes and one of them would be single people becoming parents. Adoption agencies, which earlier showed a staunch bias against unmarried men and women, are now more prepared to consider them as prospective parents.
What is Adoption?
Adoption is a social, emotional and legal process in which children will be raised by nonbiological individuals, who become full and permanent legal parents. An increasing number of people are beginning to consider marriage unimportant to enjoy the joys of parenting. Moreover, we are seeing many celebrities taking the bold step of becoming single parents and this has surely helped in removing the taboo linked with single parent adoption.
Adoption Laws in India
While Modi Government is gearing up for pushing Uniform Civil Code, currently child adoption laws differ from religion to religion.
Adoptions for Hindus, which also includes Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are upheld by the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. The Act allows:
- Any male Hindu is allowed to adopt. He is only allowed to adopt a boy child since adoption of girl child if not permitted for men. However, if at that time of adoption he has a living partner, he can only adopt with her consent except in case if she has been pronounced unfit by the court to give consent.
- In the case of females, they are allowed to adopt a girl child as well as a boy child. It is easier for women to adopt as compared to men as the rules are more strict and it could take some time.
Muslims do not recognise total adoption but section 8 of the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 allows them to take up the guardianship of a child. The guardian role comes with a set of rules mainly to preserve biological family line and not confuse it. However, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of children) Act, 2000 enables Muslims to adopt. The secular law empowers any person to adopt regardless of what religion they belong to.
3) Christians and Parsis
Like Muslims, even Christians and Parsis do not recognise full adoption. If someone wants to adopt he can approach the court and obtain legal permission under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. The act allows them to take a child under foster care and as soon as the child turns 18, he/she is free to break all ties from the family/parent and walk away. Adopted children also possesses no legal rights of inheritance as per the Christian Laws. But under the secular Juvenile Justice Act which supersedes personal laws, Christians and Parsis can adopt a child.
Adoption Rules for Single Men/Women
According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) Guideline permits a single women to adopt a child of any gender, but it is not the same case with single men. Single men can only adopt a boy child.
The minimum age limit of single women to adopt a child has been brought down from 30 to 25, whereas the minimum age for men to adopt a child is also 25. Prospective single male and female up to 45 years of age can adopt a child below 4 years, while those up to the age of 50 can adopt kids between the ages 5- 8 years, and for those up to the age of 55 may adopt kids between the ages of 9-18. Adoption after this age is not allowed.
Factors for adopting as a single parent
Being a single parent can be extremely tough and challenging and needs a lot of care. A single person planning to adopt a child should be mentally, emotionally and physically stable in order to take care of the child. If a person does not have a stable job, then taking care of a child can be harder and if the person adopting a child has a job, then he/she needs to make sure the current job allows them the essential flexibility to cater the needs while raising a child.
Procedure for Adoption in India
Any person who wishes to adopt a child is required to register online with CARA where they can state preferences and upload the documents, as mentioned on its official website. Once the registration is received, the parent can select a Specialised Adoption Agency, selected from place of residence, for Home Study that is conducted through a social worker. The report remains valid for three years and confirms the suitability of the parents for adopting a child.
After they are found to be eligible and suitable, they are given referrals of children legally free for adoption. The Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAP) have to reserve a child referred to them within 48 hours. An appointment is thereafter fixed with the adoption committee of the agency for matching the PAP with the suitable child.
After the child gets adopted the agency that prepares the Home Study Report also does a post-adoption follow-up on six monthly basis for two years from the date of pre-adoption foster placement with the prospective adoptive parents and the report is uploaded on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS) along with photographs of the child. The District Child Protection Unit also prepares the post-adoption follow-up report in case of relocation of adoptive parents to a different place of dwelling.
Do single parents who want to adopt need to have an extended family to look after the child?
This is a question which is very important and is in many people’s minds. For a single parent, there should be an undertaking from a relative in case of any eventuality, which is mentioned on the registration form as well.
Cost for Adoption in India
According to the CARA rules, adopting a child costs not more than Rs 50,000. The cost includes the registration fee, the home study costs and the adoption agency’s official fee for child-care corpus fund and may happen over the progression of the adoption process rather than all at once.
Challenges Faced By Single Parents
Life is hard for most single parents in India, as the society makes them feel it is not okay to be single while raising a child.
A single parent need not be the natural mother or father of the child, as some individuals choose to become single parents by adopting a child. Single parents require more support system which can provide necessary help and relief in times of crisis like medical care, after school care and job related travel. Raising a child alone is not easy and people should respect the person who raises a child alone, as it can take a toll on them due to the pressure of balancing work and taking care of the child single handedly. In case of finance related issues, people who wish to adopt can reach out to agencies which offer grants and loans for this purpose.
There are many singletons in India who have started adopting and ignoring the importance of having biological children after marriage. We need to realise that giving home to a child without parents, is very meaningful and every orphaned or abandoned child deserves that.
A word of caution……..Plan to adopt only when you are mentally ready and not when you are driven by emotions!
Author: Nandini Shah is a 3rd year Bachelors of Journalism student and currently working as an intern with MDO.
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