Parents’ stress of years-long adoption process melts away with hug from little Anya

Seven-year wait to adopt daughter for Indian expats living in UAE.

Anya, third from left, has found a new home with Ajay Keerthy, his wife Puja Vijaykant, and their son Vivaan, 3, in Dubai. It took the couple more than seven years to adopt her.  Jeffrey Biteng / The National
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Bureaucratic and judicial delays in India stretch the adoption process to 18 months for resident prospective parents and twice as long for expats. Puja Vijaykant, who recently adopted a girl, says the red tape should be eased.

DUBAI // Puja Vijaykant scoops her daughter Anya into her arms, and the emotional toll exacted from her by a long adoption process melts away.

It took patience, persistence, hundreds of emails, phone calls and more than seven years for Ms Vijaykant and her husband Ajay Keerthy to adopt a child from their home country.

By sharing their story, they hope to help other Indian expatriates to cope with the bureaucratic and judicial delays. There are 141 Indian expats in the Arabian Gulf who are waiting to adopt children.

“The process needs to be made simpler and needs to have more heart,” Ms Vijaykant said. “Parents can submit whatever documentation or verification is needed, but once parents have seen the child the process should not be prolonged.

“The judiciary needs to play a role to expedite it. We also must get rid of the bureaucracy that needs a stamp here and a seal there, and do away with registered post that takes two to three weeks to come through.”

Ms Vijaykant and her husband adopted 14-month-old Anya from an orphanage in Srikakulam, in southern India. Anya is among 112 children to find a home in the region in the past four years.

Inundated with calls from couples who wish to adopt, Omana Menon, who is licensed by India’s Central Adoption Resource Authority to help couples in the UAE and Arabian Gulf countries adopt Indian children, asks couples to be patient.

“You cannot blame anyone,” she said. “You cannot say the authority is wrong because it’s not an easy thing, they are doing the best they can. Neither can you blame the poor parents. They are getting older and get extremely disturbed the longer it takes.”

The adoption process for Indian expatriates is usually twice as long as the 18-month period for prospective parents in India.

Ms Vijaykant and Mr Keerthy had to wait an extra two years. They had to reapply in 2012 after their original registration in India in 2010 was returned because of their move overseas.

There was a further wait of 16 months from October 2012 because Indian authorities had stopped accepting expatriates’ adoption applications because of a lack of children.

When the adoption process restarted in 2014, it took a year before the couple had a chance to look at children awaiting adoption, and they chose Anya last October.

It took another month for Anya to be placed in the care of grandparents, who live in India.

Then the court order took two months, with the couple travelling back and forth at least five times. The process distressed Vivaan, the couple’s three-year-old son, who woke up crying most nights asking why his sister was not in Dubai.

“The adoption process does not take into account the trauma and stress that the child and parents go through,” Ms Vijaykant said.

Finally, in Dubai last month, Anya was getting to know her new family. She ran to Ms Vijaykant and sat quietly on her lap as Ms Vijaykant explained what it took to bring Anya to the child’s new home.

For Mr Keerthy, it is heart-warming to see Anya play with Vivaan and other children in their Jumeirah Beach Residence community.

“It’s not a fairytale story because settling in takes time,” Mr Keery said.

“The child is used to a different environment so she cries for every little thing, because that’s the way she has got her way in the orphanage.

“The process fatigued us because we had to push so much. It takes a toll on everything. But when I go back home and see her responding to us or when we try getting both kids to bed, I would never want it any other way.”

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Criteria for adoption

Rules for -non-resident Indians.

•Prospective adoptive parents should be physically, mentally and emotionally stable, financially capable, motivated to adopt a child and should not have any life-threatening medical condition.

•An adoptive father, irrespective of his marital status and whether or not he has his own biological son or daughter, can adopt a child.

•A single woman is eligible to adopt a child of any gender.

•A single man is not eligible to adopt a girl.

•In the case of a couple, the consent of both spouses is required.

•No child shall be given in adoption unless the couple has at least two years in a stable marital relationship.

•The minimum age difference between the child and either of the prospective adoptive parents should not be less than 25 years.

•The parent’s age on the date of registration shall be considered to apply for children of different age groups.

•For a child up to the age of four years, the maximum combined age of parents allowed is 90 and of a single adoptive parent 45.

•For four to eight-year-olds, the maximum combined age of parents allowed is 100 and a single parent 50; while from eight to 18 years of age, the age for both parents can be 110 years or a single parent can be 55 years.

•Couples with more than four children will not be considered for adoption.

•To simplify procedures, federal guidelines in 2015 mandate that instead of parents contacting different state adoption agencies, there is direct communication via an online system.

•Couples select the state, male or female child, normal or child with disability, on the Central Adoption Resource Authority portal before being offered options of six children and are then directed to agencies.

•Parents can register on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System online.

Source: Central Adoption Resource Authority, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.

rtalwar@thenational.ae