Sita* age 7 lived with her grandmother after her parents died. After her grandmother died, a distant relative “Nalini” approached the CWC to admit her to a CCI. The child was moved from one CCI to another on the basis that “Nalini” was her legal guardian. Now Sita is 15 years old. “Nalini” did not visit her at all in all these years. Sita was never evaluated for adoption due to the legal procedural grey area in dealing with this.
Unfortunately, such cases of ‘gradual abandonment’ are repeated in shelters all over India. So, it is good news that the newly amended Juvenile Justice Model Rules (2022) now provides specific guidance for evaluating a child for adoption in cases where the parents/guardians have no contact.
Section 12 of the JJ Model Rules specifically calls out “children living in the Child Care Institutions who are not in contact with their guardians for several years” adding that officials should “counsel such children about the benefit of family-based care including foster care and adoption.”
Section 12 of the JJ Model Rules also adds that officials should:
“(ix) ensure that children without having a legal guardian irrespective of their age are expeditiously declared legally free for adoption within the timeline as provided in the Act, rules and regulations;
(x) interact with older children living in Child Care Institutions having no guardians and also with such children living in Child Care Institutions who are not in contact with their guardians for several years and counsel such children about the benefit of family-based care including foster care and adoption”.
While this is a welcome addition to the existing JJ Model Rules, it is up to the States to define the period of “no contact”. It is up to the States to ensure every CCI in their State maintains a visit log for every child with the date, time, and a picture of when the parent/guardian has visited the child. It is up to the States to evaluate every child in the CCI to ensure no orphaned child with or without a guardian is evaluated, given the amended rules. That means every child in CCIs should be evaluated so that no child’s right to family is overlooked.
We will continue to recommend policy changes to bring more clarity, especially for children left in the shelters who have a parent/guardian. We will continue to recommend policy changes for permanency hearings for children left in shelters who have a parent/guardian. We will continue to recommend policy changes to ensure a periodic review of every child in CCIs.
We will continue to recommend policy changes to ensure a child’s right to a family is fulfilled.