More single women are adopting than ever before yet our follow-up on adoption trends found a gap in foster parents for children with special needs. Adoptive parents have a preconceived idea of a ‘perfect child’ they want to bring home – usually male, of a light wheatish to fair complexion and having a specific hair type. According to a report in The Hindu, only 49 special needs children were adopted within India in 2016-17, out of the total 3,210 adoptions. That is, only 1.5% of the in-country adoptions that year were of special needs children. The pattern is similar every year.
Gayatri Abraham, Founder of Padme, a resource centre for adoptive parents, says: “In the last few decades there’s been more openness to adoption, but there’s still a long way to go. At this stage, adoption of special needs children doesn’t even get talked about.”
Many of the children in the special needs category just need the necessary medical diagnosis and support to become healthy and active. Counsellor Smriti Gupta wrote in Better India, “Children respond very positively to a family environment, thus significantly and quickly improving on whichever condition they may have, once they come home.”
Lack of counselling means prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) are unaware of the possibilities of adopting a special needs child, and also the requirements for this. “Most people think if they adopt a special needs child, they’d be spending all their time in hospitals, which isn’t true. But there should also be an understanding that both treatment and management may be needed later,” says Smriti.
As per CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) regulations, ‘special needs’ comprises a broad range. It goes beyond the 21 conditions legally defined as disabilities as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPD) Act, 2016. As per CARA data, there are about 2,080 children up for adoption now, of whom around 1,010 children are in the special needs category. The number of registered parents is about 20,000 – 10 times the number of available children.
Also neglected is the list of ‘immediate placement’ children – mostly those who are older or were repeatedly rejected by PAPs. To promote adoption from special needs and immediate placement categories, CARA allows PAPs to look through these lists even if they had registered for a ‘normal’/younger child. The lists are compiled from registered Specialised Adoption Agencies (SAAs) across the country.
Ask for this list if you are considering adoption. Being open to special needs allows us to accept the love of a child who is as brilliant, unique, and deserving as all children.