[The cases discussed below are real. Children’s names and some details have been changed to protect their privacy. Written by WAIC co-founder, Smriti Gupta, and cross-posted from her personal blog.]
Diya and Meenu were 3 and 5 years old when they were abandoned and brought into a government run child shelter. Lack of regular and timely follow-up by the local Child Welfare Committee meant that the girls were not immediately declared free for adoption, and continued to live in the shelter. Then more trauma happened. When Meenu turned 6 years old, she was shifted to a private shelter, while Diya continued at the government shelter because shelters in India are structured by age groups and gender. Both girls regularly asked for each other, but overstretched staff and general lack of sensitivity towards children meant that no one took the initiative to keep them together.
This would have been Diya’s and Meenu’s life, but then the local Child Welfare Committee members retired and new ones came in. The shelters also got pressured to review and expedite the children’s cases. The new Child Welfare Committee finally conducted an adoption inquiry on Diya and Meenu and declared them legally free for adoption. The girls got immediately matched with parents who wanted to adopt siblings, and finally the sisters will be together again!
It took Diya and Meenu 3 years to again be a family with permanent parents. If the law had been followed in a timely manner by local authorities, it would have only taken 4 months.
Jeetu, Nitin, and Priya were 4, 7, and 9 years old when their parents passed away. With no relatives willing to take care of them, they were separated from each other due to their ages and gender and put in separate shelters. No one believed they would be together again. But at least the wheels of the system churned and the kids were declared free for adoption by their local Child Welfare Committee. And to the surprise of many, a couple adopted them after jumping through many hoops to prove that they would be the right parents. The children are now together with a new permanent family. The children bore the trauma of losing their biological parents and getting separated in child shelters. Adoption has finally given them a chance to be together and heal.
In case you are wondering, these are not a handful of cases. All across India, orphaned and abandoned children reach shelters and get stuck. Siblings get separated. Shelters generally have no incentive or interest in proactively getting these children declared legally adoptable. Which is why India desperately needs to improve the frequency, speed, and periodicity of adoption inquiries that are conducted by district Child Welfare Committees. Every abandoned and orphaned child in every child shelter needs to be evaluated again and again every 6 months for an adoption inquiry. For every abandoned and orphaned child in a shelter, we must constantly ask the question “why isn’t this child legally adoptable” and not rest until every child has reached a permanent family.