In India, there have been a growing number of cases reported regarding the abuse of children ‘unofficially’ adopted by members of the wider family circle. As a result, several organisations have called for new legislation to adequately protect children fostered by relatives.

Adoption within the family

Newspapers reported the case of a 12-year-old girl in Bhopal adopted by an uncle after her father was jailed for murdering her mother. The state had to intervene after it became apparent the girl was physically abused and made to work as a servant. The child was eventually handed over to the grandmother.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident of intra-family abuse of adopted children. The Indian authorities are currently reported to be dealing with many other similar cases regarding children adopted by relatives-turned-foster parents.

Is current legislation inadequate?

The problem is that although India does have legislation in place to protect adopted children (a quarterly inspection is carried out for up to two years), this legislation does not necessarily extend to children adopted by members of the wider family circle.

Alok Sharma of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) conceded that post-adoption monitoring is a neglected area, even in legal adoptions, stating: ‘There is nothing that we could do about informal adoption within families or even friends’.

More worryingly, organisations such as the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) believes that it could be a result of people looking at adopting the children of poor relatives as they find it difficult to get full time servants. Unfortunately, there is little in the law to stop people from doing this or to monitor the condition of the children once they are handed over.

Changing family law

Clearly, more controls are needed, as inter-family adoption is usually a very informal process. State agencies and charitable organisations currently rely on the children and neighbours to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect. The Indian government is therefore now looking at increased regulation, as well as post-adoption counselling and monitoring in the cases of intra-family adoption.

However, in the meantime, an awareness campaign highlighting the statutory legal requirements of the adoption process could mean more cases such as this one will come to light.

If you have concerns about Indian family law please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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