Tank up on patience
Your baby coming home could take up to a year. There will be a lot of papers to be signed, more than a handful trips to be made to the adoption agency, doctor and courts.
If paperwork is stressful for you, get ready to grin and bear it
Adoption agencies, as mandated by law, require almost all documents you’ve collected in your life: education certificates, proof of residence, medical test reports, income and bank statements, police verification… and, in triplicate at each agency you register with. Filling forms can be trying as well, but some agencies now have started accepting photocopies of a master form or matter printed in the format they ask for. The process gets even more cumbersome if you’re a non-resident Indian or a foreigner.
Register with a legal adoption agency
Make sure you check if the adoption agency is registered under the local government. There are several adoption rackets running, so make sure you’re not a victim and you’re not made to face the law; or worse, the government takes your child away from you. The registration costs Rs500.
Boy or girl?
The papers you sign at the agency ask for your preference of sex and, alarmingly, skin colour of the child—fair or dark. You can lay down your preference for a young or slightly older child. The agency then does a ‘best match’ among the children in its care. Surprise: In large cities, say adoption experts, the preference of most young parents is a girl child.
Hindu or not a Hindu?
If you’re not a Hindu (an ‘atheist’ is persona non grata under Indian law), you will get what is called ‘guardianship’ of the child. The only difference between an adopted child and one under guardianship is that the latter does not have automatic inheritance rights to your property. This can be settled by the adoptive parents writing out a will bequeathing their self-earned wealth. The child’s grandparents can also do the same, bequeathing their self-earned wealth. But, the rules on ancestral inheritance are not watertight and a crooked relative’s avarice can lead to long years in the courts.
Be honest and upfront with the adoption agency
If, for instance, there is someone in the close family—say, a spouse’s mother—who’s opposed to the adoption, don’t hide it. All agencies have counsellors who will advise you on what to watch out for and how to deal with such issues.
When the agency makes a house call (mandated under law to see if the child is being placed in a suitable home), make sure the counsellor calling on you gets a fair picture. If you intend having a relative over when the child comes home, try and have her over when the counsellor comes calling. Not having a ‘support system’ by way of relatives is not a dampener. Fine print: If a house call is being made, it is normally a sign that the adoption agency has a child for you.
Prepare for the unexpected call
Be ready for the call from the adoption agency asking you to come over the next morning to take your child home. Most agencies do not give couples the option to ‘choose’ a child; some allow for up to one refusal.
It is a mad rush after your first meeting with your child: take her to a doctor (agencies allow you to run tests but discourage you from invasive procedures like complex blood tests), buy the essentials , childproof your home, take pictures, tell everyone…
Let’s go home, precious!
You’re ready to take your little one home. One small formality left: a payment of Rs20,000 is to be made. This amount (which is meant to cover legal fees and care for the child while at the adoption home) varies from state to state; some ask for a bank deposit to be made in the child’s name.
Here are some more to-dos: You cannot leave the city’s jurisdiction until a court grants you adoption or guardian rights. In most cases, the adoption agency has a lawyer engaged to take care of this work but you can have a lawyer of your choice handle the filings and court paperwork as well, to make things easier.
Qualified mother (or father)!
Finally, some fairly routine court work later that can take about six months, you are a certified parent. In other words, you are ready for parental angst: “Is she teething?”, “Do you think she has a mild squint?”, “She hates if it gets warm, doesn’t she?”, “She didn’t smile at me in the last hour”, “Hope she doesn’t get your intelligence.” … Welcome to parenthood.