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Rehabilitation of children in COVID times

This Article is authored by Advocate Anil Malhotra.

PM Cares Fund has announced long terms financial support for children who have lost parents. Supreme Court has directed Government to provide details of beneficial schemes for 1742 orphans and 7464 children left with single parents. These vulnerable innocent victims need urgent rehabilitation. Foster care, kinship support, extended family care are preferential options to cumbersome, tedious time consuming adoption processes.

Profiteering from unethical dubious child trafficking rackets knows no bounds. Disguised as sympathetic sob stories of children orphaned due to Covid pandemic flooding social media, human smugglers are offering infants for instant adoptions. These unscrupulous traders targets gullible persons who fall into a trap, little realizing that such adoptions are wholly illegal. Lack of inputs of proper procedures of legal adoption processes and hasty sentimental considerations are exploited for exorbitant sums of money. Tough times call for tough measures. This business of criminal trading of children must be checked with an iron hand. It must be done.

According to UNICEF, India has over 30 million orphan and abandoned children.Unfortunate unforeseen human deaths has added huge unknown numbers of orphans, escaping official machinery monitoring due to breakdown of systems. Initiatives of the Supreme Court from 1984 onwards, led to amended enactment of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act). The JJ Rules, 2016 and the statutory Adoption Regulations, 2017 (AR) followed to create Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), as a statutory body to regulate, monitorand control all Intra and Inter-country adoptions. Furthermore, the role of CARA became pivotal in granting a NOC in all inter-country adoptions, pursuant to India becoming a signatory to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Inter-country Adoptions. India also being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, protections afforded to children became a legal mandate of all Authorities and Courts in India. Laws were enacted. Machineries and mechanisms created, were put in place.

The JJ Act, being a secular law, all persons are free to opt to adopt children under this law. However, persons professing the Hindu religion are free to adopt under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA). Rehabilitation of all orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children isregulated by the strict mandatory procedures of AR. Children of relatives can also be adopted under the JJ Act, if desired. Only such children declared legally free for adoption under the JJ Act by prescribed procedures,can be adopted. Any person or organization offering, giving or receiving such children for adoption in violation of the JJ Act and AR, invites punishment upto three years and Rs. 1 lakh fine.

Eligibility of prospective adoptive parents living in India duly registered on Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS), irrespective of marital status and religion,isadjudged by specialized adoption agencies preparing home study reports. Upon approval as per seniority in the adoption list, prospective children are offered and pre-adoption foster care follows.The specialized adoption agency then secures Court Orders approving the adoption. All non-resident overseas persons approach authorized adoption agencies in their foreign country of residence for registration under CARINGS. Their eligibility is adjudged by authorized foreign adoption agencies by home study reports. As per seniority, they are offered profiles of children and child study reports are finalized. CARA then issues a pre-adoption NOC for foster care, followed by a Court adoption Order. A final NOCfrom CARA or a conformity certificate under the Adoption Convention is mandatory for a passport and visa to leave India.

How many people know this and how will they know it. Need of the hour is that CARA must do an outreach on social media, newspapers and TV, warning all concerned not to entertain any illegal adoption offers under any circumstances whatsoever. Public awareness must multiply. The message of the legal process of adoption must be adequately publicized. The National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights must step up their functions empowered by law to take effective action. Social activists, NGOs and enlightened individuals must report all incidents coming to notice. Respective State Legal Services Authorities have the infrastructure and machinery to stamp out such unlawful practices brought to their attention. Media must publicize and shame all involved in this disreputable occupation of human trading. Neighbourhood watch must be developed. In all such cases, children must find homes. Innocent children deprived of the love and care of their natural parents due to tragedies cannot fall prey to traders of human smuggling. At the same time, police authorities need to be extra vigilant in apprehending criminals who deal in this bad business of acting as devils to enrich themselves to hell. A joint private public venture must come in motion. Traumatized infants rehabilitation in extended families is a prime emergent option. Simplified expeditious adoptions under HAMA with relatives will help defenseless children. Government agencies must oversee these measures. Every citizen of nation has a role to play to eradicate this unhealthy practice emerging in society. Children are our future. We must save them. Action post haste.


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