New Delhi, July 11
More than 800 children have died in state-run specialised adoption agencies since 2018, according to official data. Of these, most are below two years old, officials said, painting a tragic picture of neglect.
The main reason for the fatalities, they explained, is “unsafe abandonment”, including children being found with dog bites and so vulnerable they can’t be saved.
Breaking up the numbers, the Central Adoption Resources Authority (CARA) said in response to multiple RTIs filed by PTI that 118 children, 104 of them below two, died in state and Central Government-run agencies in 2021-22.
In 2020-21, the number was 169 and in 2019-20 it was 281. In 2018-19, 251 children died in the agencies, according to the data.
Of the total 819 children, 481 were girls and 129 those with special needs, defined as those who have some type of disability and require exceptional care and extra help.
Data for the number of children below two was not available.
Most specialised adoption agencies are meant for children below six years. However, they also give refuge to some older children. Children older than six are housed in child care institutions.
Nearly 7,000 children, as on June 28 this year, are living in specialised adoption agencies across the country.
According to an official, most of the deaths occurred in the under two-year age group. In some cases, parents surrender their sick, older children to these agencies as they are not able to take care of them.
“It is unfortunate but a fraction of children in these specialised adoption agencies do not survive and the main reason behind it is unsafe abandonment.
“At times they are found in such vulnerable conditions that they are beyond saving. Many children are found with dog bites and by the time we find them it is too late,” a senior CARA official explained.
Enakshi Ganguly, child rights activist, said there is need to look beyond numbers at each and every case to see how and why these deaths occurred.
“I think there needs to be much greater transparency and accountability from the government on the subject. It becomes incumbent on care organisations to be much more transparent,” she added.
Easing the problems in adopting a child and bringing in greater accountability in how adoption agencies function could change the situation, said experts.
There are 16,155 cases of prospective parents waiting for more than three years to adopt a child, they said. In total, 28,501 prospective parents (PAPs) are in queue to adopt a child while 3,596 children are legally free for adoption.
Ariana (name changed), found in a plastic bag when she was a new born in Aurangabad in 2013, could have been a statistic. But she was adopted by Delhi-based parents when she was six months old and now, nine years later, is a happy child who loves playing tennis and cricket.
Her mother said every day since they adopted Ariana has been a gift.
“We were lucky to find each other but there are still many children who weren’t as lucky as Ariana and were not able to make it. She was abandoned in a plastic bag but was fortunate to be found by caregivers in time,” the mother said.
Adoption agencies have special budgets and something needs to be probed if they are still unable to look after children, said Bharti Ali, co-founder and director at HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.
“There are schemes like the Palna and cradle baby scheme under which people are encouraged to leave their children in cradles kept by the agencies rather than on roads,” she told PTI.
“Children left on roads face a lot of risks and dogs eating abandoned children is very common. We have been hearing this for the past 20 years now. So the question is—why haven’t we been able to change the situation even with schemes in place? If you have not been able to change the situation then you have not done enough as far as awareness generation is concerned,” she added.
Ali also said there is also a provision in the law to allow children to surrender their children, rather than abandon them.
“So with all these things if we have not been able to achieve that goal then we need to be something more. We know that there are parents waiting to adopt a child and there are not enough children,” she said.
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