This is not the case everywhere in the world.
According to an article on India's Tehelka online, one of these places is Delhi, India.
There, purportedly, the discovery and reunion to their parents of lost and missing children is sometimes purposefully being made more difficult or even impossible in order to supply adoptable "orphaned" children to profiteering private adoption agencies.
Given India's child welfare system this should NOT be happening.
Theoretically and practically, India's child welfare system has made excellent provision, not only for aiding the return to their parents of lost children, but also for the regulation of adoption to prevent child trafficking:
- India has a national missing child hotline, Childline
- India's national Juvenile Justice Act contains, among other things, exemplary nationally mandated procedures and regulations to facilitate the discovery and reunion to their parents of lost and stolen children
- India has a functioning national system of local Child Welfare Councils who are invested with the authority and judicial power to protect "the welfare of children who need care and protection"
- India has a federal governmental committee, the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) with the mandated authority to regulate and oversee both the domestic and foreign adoption of Indian children.
- The Central Adoption Resource Agency or CARA has exemplary, nationally-binding, clear, concise, and well-thought-out regulations for adoption (specifically written with an eye for keeping adoption from morphing into child trafficking)
- India has adequate governmental organization, local police forces, and local NGO's which should be knowledgeable about laws, be able to report abuses, be able to follow/enforce regulations, and be able to coordinate child welfare efforts according to mandated procedures and applicable laws.
But somehow, it doesn't seem to do so.
To help readers understand just how such a system could be and is failing families and children, the Tehelka article tells the anecdotal story of an Indian family whose child is lost from them and then examines the a "confidential" 2005 report on the functioning of private adoption agencies within the child welfare system.
The anecdotal story of one Delhi couple illustrates just how hard it can be to retrieve a child from the system even after he is "found."
A Delhi couple's young son was kidnapped by someone hoping to "settle a score" with them and then purposefully "lost" from his parents by being set loose alone in a major railway station.
As soon as the horrified parents discovered their son was missing, they began frantically searching for him.
A day later they found him at a local home run by a private adoption agency. Instead of returning their lost son promptly as required by law, orphanage officials were reportedly "extremely uncooperative"--to the extent that they even refused to let the parents see their son.
"After hour of waiting and pleading, [our son] was finally shown only to my wife and that too from a distance of some 10-15 yards."The orphanage refused to return the son and the parents were told to come back three days later, on Monday.
--An Indian father speaking of what happened when he located his missing son at a private adoption agency
"They again refused to entertain us on Monday. We then had to go to the juvenile court, which directed us to the Child Welfare Committee [in another area of town.]"A day later, four full days after finding their lost son at the orphanage, the parents were finally allowed, with the intervention of the Child Welfare Committee and "some good Samaritans," to take their son home again.
--An Indian father speaking of what happened when he located his missing son at a private adoption agency
Not all parents are so fortunate or resourceful. Not every couple is able, on their own, to successfully trace their missing child and find him. Not all parents have the tenacious hopefulness that it takes to keep trying to in the face of serious or seemingly insurmountable hurdles. In a extremely economically stratified and socially hierarchical society, those "at the bottom" may have already learned that they "can't win" and that their efforts will only bring them more misery--poor people in someplaces have been conditioned to expect beatings whenever they complain or ask for help and justice from those in authority. Not all parents are as resourceful in finding appropriately helpful aid.
In short, the Delhi couple was lucky in that their story ended happily. Many similar stories don't.
In Delhi India alone, during the three years of 2004, 2005, and 2006, a total of 6,687 children, reported missing by their parents, were declared "untraceable" by the Crime Branch's Missing Person's Squad.
This means that 6,687 families, who had enough tenacity and hope to make the effort to file police reports in an effort to get help in tracing their missing child(ren), have been told that there is little to no hope of finding their children. For all practical purposes these children might as well have vanished into thin air.
"A senior Department of Social Welfare (DSW) official lays the blame for this on voluntary adoption agencies. 'They [the missing children] are fated to live either an orphan's or an adopted child's life, all thanks to various voluntary organisations.'"
According to Tehelka online which claims access to this "confidential" report, the Department of Social Welfare found that voluntary adoption agencies including the specific one in the previous anecdotal story, "routinely flaunt norms and rules" concerning lost children and adoption. But the problem goes beyond the voluntary adoption agencies alone:
"[The] 2005 DSW report states, 'Childline and the police are unduly helping [the adoption agencies] in procuring children for [themselves] in violation of statutory provisions.'"Violations of child welfare provisions, according to the report, purportedly include the following:
- "Found" lost children taken directly to private adoption agencies without first registering them with the police or the local Child Welfare Committees.
- Adoption agencies failing to notify (as mandated) the police, the local Child Welfare Committee, and Childline (the national hotline for missing children) of the receipt of "lost" children into their institution.
- Adoption agencies who receive lost children failing to prepare individual child histories and failing to review individual children's cases in a timely manner or at all.
- Complying with the Juvenile Justice Act's requirement that found "lost" children be advertised in newspapers, in such a way that it is unlikely that searching parents would either 1) see the ad and 2) recognize their child in the vague and inaccurate information contained therein.
- Neglecting by numerous failings to follow mandated procedures, the expressly stated principle of the nationally binding Juvenile Justice Act in regard to lost children which states: "Every effort should be made to restore the child to his or her biological parents."
- Violating the clearly stated, nationally binding regulations of the Central Adoption Resource Agency including the following:
- Charging in excess of the allowable adoption fees as set forth in CARA guidelines.
- Preferring foreign adoptive parents to domestic Indian adoptive parents because they have the ability to pay more money for the child--despite the fact that Indian Supreme Court and CARA guidelines for adoption clearly state that Indians must be given preference over foreigners for the adoption of Indian children. And also, its domestic corollary...
- Preferring middle class and wealthy Indian parents over poor ones because of their ability to pay fees beyond the legal limits.
Note: If governmental authorities are not notified that "lost" children have been taken into care, there is no official record of their having been "found." Children "found" in this way, despite being "in care" effectively disappear without a trace for all practical purposes. Taking children off of the streets and into an institution without reporting their whereabouts to the proper authorities actually makes it harder, not easier, for their parents to find them. Without official records that can be shared between official governmental offices, parents are must visit every possible institution within a city in order to look for their lost children. In a large city like Delhi this could make it practically impossible for children to be found once they are lost from parents.
"Such history sheets could help in tracing the natural parents of a lot of children. These agencies have thus separated innumerous children from their natural homes...in their urge to mint money through adoptions."
"The JJA states that before putting up a child for adoption, the adoption agency must publish his particulars in at least four leading newspapers, of which two must be in regional languages. But 'private adoption agencies ... have resorted to just a farcical eyewash by publishing their self proclaimed names [presumably names given the child by the adoption agency itself--not necessarily the name by which the child is known to his parents] and self-estimated dates of birth without any photograph--that too only of a few children, in some less popular newspapers, off and on only. The [DSW] report says that the agencies do this, 'to avoid finding 'their natural parents'.'Commenting on this, a CWC member asks, 'How can parents recognise their offspring by such an absurd publication which does not even have the child's correct name?'"
Note: According to the Tehelka article, the maximum allowable domestic adoption fee is 10,000 rupees, and yet, according to the same article, the average amount a domestic Indian couple pays to adopt a child is 20,000 rupees.
From the CARA guidelines themselves, I glean that the maximum amount allowable fee for a foreign adoption is $3500 (about 10 times the maximum charge for a domestic adoption). Yet, American adoption agencies often charge $5,000 -$7,000 for the "foreign fee"--the part of the adoption fee that goes to the Indian orphanage. Recently one American adoption agency stated through private correspondence to a potential client that their Indian fee was $11,000.
Which brings us to another point in our long laundry list...
In fact, according to Tehelka article statistics, there are on average approximately 200 Indian parents on the adoption waiting list at each of the approximately 10 of the adoption agencies in Delhi.
As the middle class in India grows, the demand for adoptable children also grows. Where there is demand, there will be those who seek to make money by filling it.
"Had [the family in the anecdotal story]not have [traced him to the orphanage where he was themselves], says a senior DSW official, 'he would have been in [the orphanage] for months without the required effort to trace his family. The agency then would have secured a release order--mandatory to give a child in adoption--from the CWC, finally to give him to a total stranger in return for a huge sum of money.'"Officially, he'd have been listed as one of the missing "untraceable" children. Children who disappear from their parents never to be heard of again.
In my mind I see an internationally adopted child struggling to come to terms with the fact that he was abandoned by his first parents--didn't they love me?--while on the other side of the world first parents are forever haunted by the memory of the child they loved and lost.
And somewhere else someone else is enjoying wealth and accolades for helping "orphans."
What a world we live in....and how little we understand it all...from our own side of the elephant...
Article: "Missing Children: The Business of Adoption," Tehelka.com, July 1, 2007
Resources: CARA Guidelines Governing Adoption
The Juvenile Justice Act (India)