Adopting a child in India is a fairly straightforward process if you are an Indian citizen living in India or if you are a foreign citizen living abroad. Where the grey area exists, as we found out in considerable clarity, is if you are a foreign citizen living in India. None of the adoption procedures in India have taken into account the seemingly rare possibility of foreign citizens residing in India and wanting to adopt a child in India. Born and raised in India, we became US citizens after studying and working there. We then came back to India and decided to adopt. As we went through the deceptively simple process, the underlying complexities unraveled before us much like peeling an onion!
Our daughter was about three and a half, when we decided that we were ready for a second one. Our decision to adopt was actually the easiest part of the process that we were about to go through. After furnishing our entire life history of details, we settled down to what they promised to be a long wait. Surprisingly, although one would assume that the number of children in India waiting to be adopted would be high, it is actually quite the opposite – the number of prospective parents far outnumbers the number of children to be adopted.
We submitted our application to the Adoption Coordinating Agency (ACA) in the state of Karnataka who did our home study and handed it over to the adoption agency we had chosen. When asked to choose whether we wanted a boy or a girl, we stated that we had no preference, secretly hoping it would be a girl! Of course, we were aware that we would have to adopt under the Guardianship and Wards Act (GAWA), and not under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA), since the latter does not allow adoption of children of the same gender.
And then the wait began – we were the 93rd couple in the ACA list and the 25th couple in the Adoption Agency’s list! One year later, we got a call – it’s a girl! Four and a half months old, and we could go see her and bring her home. Off we went – and there she was, our little baby. Laughing and smiling at everybody. It was love at first sight. Formalities of medical check-ups out of the way, we went to bring our baby home. That was when we received our first shock. The foster care agreement stated that we are Indian citizens. We remember telling ACA several times that we were US citizens! So, now, we are told, adoption will have to be an inter-country adoption. But, we are residents in India and we have an OCI card, we say. That apparently did not matter, since we held foreign passports. They did re-assure us though that all we needed to provide was a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from CARA, the Central Authority of Adoption in India.
That sounded easy enough – so, what documents did we need to furnish to CARA? Just the usual, we were advised by the ACA – the home study report, copies of our passports, and yes, an undertaking from the US Consulate that the child will be allowed to enter and live in the US. This is the process under the Hague Convention, we were told. There was just one small problem – the US Consulate would give such a letter only if an adoption agency in the US has reviewed our case and has considered us fit for adoption. Since we were living in India, no adoption agency in the US would take up our case. Just when we thought we had reached the end of the road, the US Consulate gave us the letter. What worked in our favor was that they recognized that ours was a special case under the Hague Convention procedures for the US, and more importantly, there are other US immigration rules that would allow us to take the baby back to the US.
Two months later, our application went to CARA for the NOC. Your application is still incomplete, we were told. We needed to get a police clearance certificate. But we are already registered with the police and hold an OCI card, we protest. CARA patiently informed us that we held foreign passports, and since they were to give a baby from their country to ours, they needed a police clearance certificate. So, we went back to ACA to check on this procedure. That’s right, they told us, you do need a police clearance certificate – we forgot to tell you. Surely, that would not be difficult, we thought, and went straight to the nearest police station. They directed us to the Police Commissioner’s office, where we were promptly told to go to the Home Minister’s office. The Home Minister’s office? But all we wanted was a police clearance certificate! Seven trips to the Home Minister’s office in Vidhana Soudha and two and a half months later, we received the police clearance letter.
Back to CARA and the two month wait for the NOC. Finally, we received it. We felt that we had just scaled the Everest! We decided to frame the original and submit the copy in court. Our baby finally came home, about six months after we first saw her. All the pains of visiting various government offices suddenly seemed to disappear as we welcomed the new addition to the family. The rest of the adoption process went smoothly, with the exception that the court order for inter-country adoption gives you a two year deadline, within which the child needs to obtain full and final adoption from the country that the parents belong to. Well, that essentially means we will have to go back to the US to complete the process.
The immediate thing, of course, was to get the child’s passport. Their fancy website allowed us to apply online, only to find out that all the processing is still done only if you visit the office and experience the long queues. When we finally got to talk to a person, he took one look at our passports and told us we cannot apply for a passport for our child. But we are the legal custodians of the child – the court order says so, we protest. He stated categorically that we were US citizens and that they would not hand over an Indian passport to a foreign citizen. So, we went back to the adoption agency, who then applied on our behalf. Five whole days spent at the passport office and two months later, the fancy website stated that the passport has been mailed – and it arrived at our doorstep.
The next step is to figure out how to get a birth certificate for the child. We are told that since we adopted under GAWA, we will not get a birth certificate. Is there a way out? We will have to find out. Till then, we are enjoying our little bundle of joy who is fast growing into a little brat, spreading joy and happiness not just in our family, but across our community. Every step may have been a hurdle during this process, but every moment now is completely worth it.
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Radhica is passionate about sustainable development and has worked with corporates, schools and communities on environmental awareness and management. She has an MS in Environmental Engineering and has worked in companies such as Ohio EPA, TERI Bangalore, and IIMB. She is based in Bangalore and has been freelancing for the past 3 years, primarily in water and energy management. She enjoys writing and has published articles, case studies, technical manuals and process documents.
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