By Rohini Mohan
A two-part series on adoption
From diaperdom to grandchildren, from soccer practice to graduation, from the tooth fairy to teenage, parenthood is one wondrous, heady, incredible journey. Sure there are tense moments and crazy moments and hectic ones and frustrating ones. I have felt more than once that I am just not equal to the job. But I do know for a fact that I never want to get off this treadmill, because raising a kid is just so worth it. There are those who will not have kids which is a matter of choice. But where do you turn when you want to have kids and cannot?
Infertility is not such an uncommon problem; nearly 10% of the population has problems associated with fertility. Any one of the recommended solutions could work for you – Natural methods, medication, surgery, IUI ( Intrauterine Insemination) and IVF ( InVitro Fertilization which can be quite intrusive and painful) There are also other options like using donors and surrogates.
If none of these are right for you, or are just not palatable, there is another door you can open – adoption. Given the number of children who languish in orphanages throughout the world, this seems like a sensible and compassionate decision. But apart from the emotional investment the prospective parents make when they take this step, the process itself can be long and arduous. If the thought of adoption has crossed your mind, you will need to steel yourself for the many harrowing obstacles you will likely encounter.
As Indians it is only natural for us to skip the idea of domestic adoption and to think of adopting a child from back home. But before embarking on the inter-country adoption process, stop first, and think of your status in the country. If you are a permanent resident or a long term visa holder, the law requires you have satisfied a 2 year legal guardianship and co-resident requirement before the child enters the country as your dependant. For more information see here.
US Citizens for the most part can adopt and petition to bring the child into the country immediately. However, the catch is that India gives priority to Indian citizens resident in India. Children available for adoption must first be considered by them before being given up for inter-country adoption. This means, among other things, that it is unlikely that a person in the US will be able to adopt a newborn child. This particular law has been around for a long time but has lately been enforced more stringently.
A good resource to help you understand the nuances is the IChild website.
The adoption process:
Step 1: Contact a local agency to complete what is called the home study where your suitability as adoptive parents is established based on your home life, health, employment and financial status and your relationship. Check out the following Bay Area resources;Bay Area Adoption Services and Accept.
These agencies will give you a packet of complete information on the process. At the same time research and as necessary register yourself with an Indian orphanage.
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the adoption rules in India. The Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women and Child Development and functions as the Central Authority of the government of India in adoption related matters. A comprehensive list of guidelines and procedures is available on their website
Step 3: Get a grip on the immigration procedure for bringing your child into the country. There is a lot of documentation and you want to ensure that you are well prepared. Take a look here.
The entire process is highly time, energy and emotion intensive and the key to making it somewhat smooth is picking the correct orphanage in India. Sofosh, based in Pune is one such organization that has brought tremendous joy to adoptive parents the world over. Sofosh comes highly recommended by many of WNI’s contacts in the Bay Area.
WNI spoke to Madhuri Abhyankar of Sofosh about the adoption experience.
WNI: Tell us a little about the Sofosh as an organization.
Madhuri: Sofosh was started in 1964 by some prominent members of the Pune community as a non-denominational voluntary and charitable organization to assist Sassoon Hospital, a government institution with various services for needy patients.
One of the big problems of the day was that of abandoned children in the city who were brought to the Sassoon hospital pediatric ward by the police. Deprived of a family, medicines, nutrition and care, many of these children were unable to survive. The hospital brought this to the attention of Sofosh who tried to rehabilitate the children in the 2 city orphanages. Unfortunately, there was only so much space there and it also proved to be a dead end. Out of this was born the adoption idea, promoted by one of Sofosh’s committee members who had had prior experience with the concept. Today there are 75 people working at Sofosh and their motto is to establish each child with a family.
WNI: What are the demographics of the adoptive parents? Has this changed over the years?
Madhuri: Oh, dramatically. The trend from the early 70s up until 1990 was that almost 95% of adoptive parents were foreigners, mainly because of the insurmountable social barriers to adoption in India. Sofosh was one of the pioneering organizations to promote in-country adoption, and recently there are several other agencies as well as the government which have been encouraging more and more Indians to adopt. Much pro in-country legislation has been passed which has caused the statistics to rise in favor of local adoption. Today the figures are exactly opposite with roughly 97% of the adoptive parents being Indian of whom 25% are NRIs. In fact these days more parents are adopting more than one child – one can even see single parents taking the step to adopt. Sofosh is now appealing to adoptive parents to take in special needs children who are as much in need of a good home as a normal child. The process is faster when parents are willing to provide a home to special needs or older children mainly because of these children are available and ready for adoption.
WNI: Which brings me to my next question, how long does the process generally take?
Madhuri: If all goes per plan and of course based on availability of the children, it should not take more than 2-1/2 years from registration to passport. Sofosh encourages parents to visit the child once that has been finalized, meet the doctor and obtain second opinions if they so choose. Sofosh believes in full disclosure of the child’s past and tries as best as possible to obtain available records to share with the adoptive parents.
WNI: What about cost?
Madhuri: The government of India stipulated cost is $3500 which does not include any expenses incurred outside of India with the local US agency and other costs associated with travel etc.
WNI: Thanks for a very informative conversation, Madhuri. Anything you would like to add, any other message you have for our readers?
Madhuri: I do want to say that Sofosh is very thrilled by the fact that the children who were adopted from Sofosh are now grown up and have come back here to adopt kids of their own. This makes them feel very close to their kids and it makes us proud grandparents!
However the continued success of an organization like ours depends on the large heartedness of the community. We are in the process of building a home for challenged children and would like to appeal to WNI’s readers to donate generously. Please go here to make a tax free donation. You are also welcome to visit the Sofosh website if you need more information on the adoption process.
This is the first of our two part series on adoption. In the concluding section in our next issue, we will meet with some families who are either in the process of adopting a child or have successfully done so.