Child adoption: relevant & contextual policy required

Consultative committee formed to deliberate child adoption policy in Nagaland State

Morung Express News
Dimapur | March 25  

Taking care of one’s own child and an adopted child are two completely different matters. As tragic as this attitude may be, it has come to fore with problems related to child adoption rising in Nagaland State.  

Non-adherence to law as well as the lack of a Nagaland State child adoption policy that is “relevant, contextual and culturally friendly” has led to wide lapses in ensuring child rights in Nagaland leading to increased destitution among children.  

Concerned citizens and NGOs have now come together to form a ‘consultative committee’ to deliberate on a policy for child adoption that is sensitive to Naga customary practices as ensured by Article 371-A of the Indian constitution.  

The decision to this effect was taken at a Dissemination and Consultation Workshop on Child Adoption held at DABA’s Elim Hall here today. It was organized by Prodigals’ Home, Nagaland Alliance for Children & Women Rights (NACWR) and The Morung Express, with support from the State Child Protection Society (SCPS).  

Issues & concerns

Naga society is well acquainted with the concept of child adoption. “Children in difficult situations (orphans, semi orphans, destitute) were adopted, given their rightful place in the family, village and society as any other member of the family,” said K. Ela, Director of Prodigals’ Home, Dimapur, while speaking at the Workshop today.  

According to a study that documented Naga customary practices from 15 tribes of Nagaland State, ten types of “adoption, foster parenting and guardianship were prevalent among the Nagas since time immemorial,” highlighted NT Kikon, Director of Wondang-ki Charitable Foundation, Dimapur, who summarized the inputs given by the tribes. These inputs will be compiled and published by the SCPS.  

However, today, “we come across a lot of such ‘adoptions’ which eventually become cases of child rights violation/illegal adoption/exploitation etc,” noted K. Ela. There is ignorance of adoption procedures, illegal adoptions from unauthorized sources, stigmatization and discrimination of adopted children, outcasting of adopted children, trafficking, problems related to unwed mothers and numerous other challenges (See page 10). To add to this are superstition and fears that lead to preference in adopting baby girls over baby boys.  

“There also exists confusion between adoption and foster parenting/care in Naga society,” K. Ela observed.  

Existing legal framework

While frameworks for adoption, foster parenting and guardianship can be found in Naga customary practices, legal frameworks also exist. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) of the Government of India provides for certain Adoption Regulations as of 2017, with the State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA) becoming the local authority to implement these guidelines.  

“An adopted must get all rights of a biological child,” said Renchumi Imti, Program Manager of Nagaland SARA, SCPS, Kohima, while explaining the legal framework available in the Indian Union to adopt a child. The SARA works hand-in-hand with the District Child Protection Units to ensure the safety of children.  

Today there are 4 Specialized Adoption Agencies and 67 registered child care institutions in Nagaland. All procedures for adoption can be done online these days providing a transparent platform.  

However, since institutions are not the best place for children, the legal framework allows for them to either be sent back home (the State provides for various support mechanisms) or to find an adoptive family, she said. The State also provides for support to these children when they become adults (above 18 years) with livelihood sustenance training. Acknowledging that the CARA regulations are “not always favourable” for indigenous people of the North East, Renchumi Imti stated that a series of consultations have led to changes being made in the guidelines that children have access to “their own social and cultural environment.”  

MS Thangpong, Deputy Passport Officer at the Passport Seva Kendra, Dimapur, also gave an overview of paperwork required, and challenges present, in intercountry adoptions.  

Way forward

In countries like the US or Canada, many disruptive adoption laws led to the removal of aboriginal children from their communities—laws there were used to extinguish indigenous peoples voices as a political force, pointed out Dr. Asangba Tzüdir, Editor of the Heritage Publishing House, Dimapur.  

In order to avoid such a phenomenon and create a sensitive environment, “Time has come when we have to seriously decide whether we must uphold the customary practices of adoption or with the change of time, approach and present trend move forward with the rest of the country on legal adoption which provides safety to all involved in adoption, such as the adopted child, adoptive parents and biological parents,” suggested NT Kikon.  

Based on the ‘best interest of the child’ in the context of Nagaland, said K. Ela, a State Policy on Child Adoption is the need of the hour.  

The program also saw a discussion on the subject, with vote of thanks offered by Asha Sanchu, President of NACWR.