Adoption guidelines: upset Christians plan unified opinion

New Delhi (Matters India): It’s not the Missionaries of Charity alone that has problems with new guidelines that make it easier for single men and women to adopt children.

There is disgruntlement among the Christian community about the new rules, which also allow details of four to six children to be made available online for prospective parents. Catholic bishops will meet with legal experts in New Delhi to decide the fate of 1,012 orphanages run by the community across the country.

“There are certain sections of the new guidelines which have hurt the Christian community. We are meeting to deliberate them,” said Gyan Prakash Topno, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. He said Thursday’s meeting will help the community come up with a unified opinion on the new guidelines and follows a series of consultations among community leaders in Mumbai and Kolkata last week.

The Missionaries of Charity, started by Mother Teresa, said it will close its adoption centers in the country because of the inability to comply with the new guidelines. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has received letters from 15 adoption centers run by the Missionaries of Charity seeking closure

Catholic church representatives from New Delhi and Kolkata who spoke to ET termed the new guidelines “anti-child, anti-family and anti-faith.”

The guidelines allowing single men and women to adopt go against the church’s thinking about family and parenting and the option to choose from as many as six children is not considered fair on their dignity.

“On the one hand, people backing the government talk about traditional values, strengthening the family and on the other, the government issues rules which are completely against our values,” said Father Savarimuthu Shankar, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Delhi.

“Letting single people adopt children will mean only a father or a mother for him or her. Also, a child is not a commodity to be sold online. Allowing people to choose from four children is not fair on the dignity of the child. A child is a gift, not a toy that you can choose and get for yourself,” he added.

Ministry officials said the provision for a single man to adopt a boy and for a single woman to adopt either a boy or girl has always existed and the Christian community was unnecessarily raking up the issue now.

Officials said the new guidelines are intended to make the process simpler, without compromising on basic checks, so that the maximum number of children can find homes.

“According to the old guidelines, the parents had to go to a particular adoption centre allotted to them by the agency and look for the child they want. That is a more humiliating process for the child,” a senior ministry official said. “This also had let to a racket with many middlemen in the agency making money over children marketed as from ‘better families.’ An online provision of four to six children with details will only end this and reduce the travelling the parents have to do.”

Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women and child development, recently said the adoption rate of 800 to 1,000 a year in India, which has about 50,000 orphan children, was “shameful” and she wanted at least 15,000 children to be adopted every year.

“Our complaint is that we could have been called for discussions before the guidelines were notified. These issues could have been discussed in detail before getting finalised,” said Shankar.

Ministry officials said consultations on the rules took place for over a year and “religion-specific” guidelines were not possible.

Dominic Gomes, Vicar General of the Calcutta Archdiocese, said the new guidelines have appalled the Christian community and several counselling and reflection sessions are being held to understand and react to the new rules.

“The sisters have held discussions with the archbishop before opting for de-recognition. Their issues are also of concern to us. Increasing the number of gay couples wanting to adopt children is a threat to the church,” he said.

The ministry said in a note on Wednesday it recognised the good work done by organisations such as the Missionaries of Charity. “However, it is reiterated that the new guidelines, prepared after an elaborate consultation process, have to be followed by all childcare institutions involved in the process of adoption.”

ET view: Modern society must have liberal rules

India’s new adoption rules which allow single women and men to become adoptive parents are welcome.

To pre-suppose that single parents are a bad influence on children is wrong. However, if the norm goes against the official theology of religious groups such as the Roman Catholic Church and its affiliated congregational orders, the best course for them is to cease to function as adoption centres.

That is what the Missionaries of Charity has rightly done. On its part, the Central Adoption Resource Agency must step up due diligence to ensure that abandoned children find secure homes.

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