By Vidya Pradhan
Conclusion of our two part series on adoption:
M is a long time resident of the Bay Area. After several unsuccessful attempts at fertility treatments had left the family emotionally and physically battered, her husband suggested adoption. Her parents, who could not bear to see her suffer through the pain of one more round of IVF, also got on board with the idea. It was M herself who was most resistant to the idea. It is not surprising that a woman’s sense of self is so tied in with her ability to be a mother.
Once she agreed, the couple looked around for other families who had adopted and began the long, slow process. M admits that she had several doubts. Would the child be intelligent? Would the child be physically very different from the rest of the family?
M picked Accept, a Bay Area organization specializing in international adoptions. Accept provides all the resources for the prospective parent but expects the clients to complete the paperwork. This keeps its costs low compared to other similar organizations.
As part of the process, a social services employee did a ‘Home Study’ to evaluate the readiness of the couple to be good parents. “It is ironic,” reflects M, “that there is no such vetting process for a biological parent.”
In India, M and her husband singled out Pune as their base city. Her research had shown that the adoption process was the most efficient here. While orphanages entertain criteria like caste and religion of the child, M and her husband only wanted a healthy child. They heard about a seven and a half month old child available for adoption. “My first impression was, my God, she is so weak!” remembers M. Once they visited the child, they were advised to hurry through the adoption. There is a rule in the books that at least two families in India have to consider the child before it can be adopted internationally. Recently this rule has been enforced more forcefully. M and her family decided not to take a chance and agreed to the adoption. After the child was given a clean bill of health, M took the child home.
“We had the opportunity of taking a look at the living conditions of the children in that particular orphanage,” says M. “There were so many kids that the rooms were cramped and stuffy. Most children, including our baby, were malnourished, as can be expected. While there is no overt neglect, just the sheer number made it difficult for the care-givers to give individual attention.”
M’s baby has seamlessly become part of the family. “The bonding did not happen immediately,” says M. “It took a few months to feel the love.” Her advice to other parents considering adoption?
“Be mentally ready. Accept that that is the child meant for you. Leave judgement by the wayside.” Four years have gone by since M adopted her baby. “Today I feel I could not have given birth to such a bright, strong, loving child. I feel blessed. All I can say is, it is not the genes. 90% is the environment you bring them up in.”
She also cautions prospective parents about making sure that the orphanage is vetted by CARA. She and her husband ended up being pressured to make a significant donation to the orphanage apart from the legitimate costs associated with the adoption. The orphanage was subsequently investigated.
Suresh and Nisha, who also live in the Bay Area are the proud parents of two lovely adopted children. They have had only positive experiences with both the Bay Area adoption agency and the Pune based India adoption agency which they chose. With Aarav, their son, they made two trips to India, once when they were matched with the baby and spent a week with him in December and then back again in 4 months for the departure ceremony a day before his first birthday, when he officially became theirs. They were so comfortable with the agency and the process that they decided to give it a second shot, and this time they got their daughter Raina who came into their life in February this year.
I met up with them in their home last week. Aarav was busy playing big brother and Raina, pretty in pink looked mightily pleased with herself after having thrown up her entire evening meal. Happily harassed, Nisha would go through this again and again. The disappointments, the frustrations and the wait have all been well worth it for her.
All adoption experiences are not as positive. Another Bay Area resident has been pursuing adoption for over two years now. After spending several months trying to complete the adoption in Bangalore, she gave up and and started over in Pune. She has even identified a child but the end is still not in sight. Bureaucracy, red tape, selectively applied rules, lack of comprehensive information, communication breakdowns…these are just some of the roadblocks she has been up against. The orphanage she chose has been embroiled in a lawsuit for making too many international adoptions. She is completely frustrated but is so invested in the process that it is not easy to walk away and make a fresh start. She plans to give it a couple of months and then look to Guatemala for adoption.
Adoptions from Guatemala have become recently popular among Indian couples fed up with the red tape in India. Though it costs 3 times as much( about $17,000 compared to $3500 for Indian adoptions), the procedure is very simple and takes just 6 months compared to the 18 months typical in India.
Perhaps the Indian government is finally waking up to the problem. A recent article in the Hindu talks about the Governments’s plans to relax rules for international adoption. New CARA director J.K. Mittal is committed to simplifying the process. He notes that not only do kids adopted internationally appear to be thriving, foreigners are also more likely to adopt children with disabilities. While this may not come in time for our beleagured Bay Area resident, maybe hope is on the horizon for new parents.
If you have an insight to offer adoption or the process, do share it with us. For the first part in our series, go here.
Some names have been withheld to respect the privacy of the parent and child.