Adoptions can be long and frustrating affairs with prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) having to navigate bureaucratic rules, paperwork and legal availability of children but the Covid-19 lockdown is really testing their patience. After a threeyear wait, Sandeep Kishore and Vidya Venkataramanan, academics based in Chicago, were finally set to bring home a one-and-a-half-yearold child from Maharashtra. All their paperwork was done, and the child’s passport was ready. But then, the world shut down. And the couple couldn’t fly in to take custody of the boy.
Vidya says that a baby shower that her office organised for her had to be cancelled. Clothes bought for him have been sitting on a cupboard shelf as the child slowly outgrows them. “I haven’t set up his room because it’s just too painful,” she adds. Their only communication with their child is the rare WhatsApp video call coordinated between the agencies in the US and India. “He’s babbling now and has started to walk,” Kishore says. But this separation is killing them. “It’s been the most challenging phase of our life so far,” he says.
Maryland-based software engineer Nalin (name changed) is a tad luckier. After initiating the adoption process in November 2018, he and his wife found a match in November 2019 — a baby girl at an adoption home in Delhi. After the formalities, Nalin landed in Delhi in early March for the final court order on adoption.
“Our daughter suffers from mild-to-severe hearing loss so I thought I will come a bit early and start on her hearing therapy. My wife was supposed to join us later,” says Nalin.
The final court order was expected on March 24, so the adoption home gave him the child for foster care. But the lockdown came before the court date. “The adoption home made an exception in our case and allowed me to fly her to Chennai where my parents live. Otherwise fostering happens in the same city as the adoption home,” Nalin says.
On the flight to Chennai, the baby was crying out aloud and he didn’t know what to do. “Thankfully, a co-passenger suggested I give her some milk and it worked. I couldn’t think of something so basic,” adds Nalin, who desperately misses his wife. “I am woefully falling short of what she could have done for her.”
But Nalin is learning. The first month was definitely tough — feeding her, changing her diapers, putting her to bed — it’s become better now, especially with his parents’ help. “She has started to walk around, gained weight, become confident and even developed a taste for idlisambar like a pukka Tamil kid,” says Nalin.
But he’s worried whether his July 2 hearing date will stand. “The government has issued guidelines to give preference to cases related to women’s safety and child custody when the courts reopen. I am worried that adoption cases may get pushed to a later date… I am desperate to fly back with my daughter,” he says.
Deepak Kumar, CEO of CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority), says that this shouldn’t be too much of a concern. “In certain states courts are pretty quick in dealing with adoption cases,” says Kumar. CARA had stopped all adoption processes at the start of the lockdown but it’s slowly resuming work. “We will start referring children to prospective parents as soon as travel restrictions are eased. We have also re-started registrations for intercountry adoptions,” says Kumar.
Adoption agencies, however, feel that CARA should take steps to speed up the processes. Radhika Dalvie who runs Arun Aashray, a home for homeless children in Pune, says it’s important that procedures and permissions should be granted online as it would help speed up the process.
“If the initial process is complete then children can at least be matched with PAPs, who are waiting anxiously. I hope and pray that these children are also treated as a priority and not just as an afterthought,” says Dalvie, who is taking care of Archana, a seven-year-old special needs child whose adoption by an American couple has been delayed due to the pandemic.
“Archana has interacted with her prospective parents on video calls and she asks me in Marathi ‘when will mama come to get me?’ I just hope that the adoption goes through. She’s made a connection with this family, she’s attached to them now,” says Dalvie, adding that Archana has faced rejections earlier because of her special needs.






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