Foster care in India still relegated to the backburner

Synopsis

ANI
Image used for representative purpose

The concept of foster care for children in need has been around in India for decades, but due to a combination of lack of awareness and reluctance on the part of potential foster parents, it hasn’t taken off in a big way.

Foster parents only have guardianship rights, to take care of a child till s/he turns 18. An established concept in the western world, a legal framework to promote foster care in India was introduced through the enactment of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act in 2015. “Foster care adoptions are handled by respective states depending on the guidelines of the JJ Act. Basic mandate has been given in the Act,” a senior WCD official told ET. Since the Act left it to the states to make rules for purposes of carrying out the scheme, this has resulted in its poor implementation.

District Child Protection Officers (DCPOs) of at least eight districts told ET that there are few takers as couples find the concept to be temporary. “People are still not open to the idea of taking care of a child for 1-2 years and then giving them back,” said DCPO from Madhya Pradesh on the condition of anonymity. District Child Protection Unit headed by DCPO is the nodal authority for the implementation of foster care programme in any district.

“Also, child welfare committees find it easier to reject an application for foster care than approving it fearing for the safety of the child as the relationship between foster parents and the child is loose,” said a child rights expert.

Agencies

As per JJ Act Guidelines, foster parents are eligible to adopt a child after fostering them for five years after completing the prescribed formalities. But in reality, most eligible parents prefer to adopt instead – hoping that will give them full parental rights faster. “There is a lack of culture for fostering among Indians who want the child to be called their own. The arrangement may be temporary but its impact is permanent and the state must take more steps to promote foster care in India as an established way of child protection,” says child rights activist and former NCPCR head Shantha Sinha.

Someone who runs a children’s home in Karnataka points to an anomaly in the present form. “If I foster a child who is 14, I will be eligible to adopt him only after five years. But by then I will be ineligible as the child will turn 19.” Children in the 6-18 age group and those with special needs across age groups can be considered for FC. Also, the pool of children for foster care is much larger as 85% of applicants want to adopt children in the 0-2 age group.

Based on feedback from various stakeholders, the Woman and Child Development ministry is likely to cut down the duration of foster care needed before adoption from five years to two so as to expedite the process. “Also, we will soon develop a portal on the lines of CARINGS dedicated for adoptions to maintain a database related to foster care,” said the official.

In a country with a small pool of legally free children eligible for adoption, an ever growing list of applicants waiting for a chance to adopt, and an even longer list of children who are lost, abandoned, orphans, abused and trafficked, foster care could offer a compelling alternative, as the process can be completed within months.

( Originally published on Aug 20, 2022 )

Saturday, 20 Aug, 2022

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