Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Baby's Mine

T. Narayan
The Baby's Mine
Amendments to make child adoption easy

For the 50 million children growing up on the streets in our country, help is at hand.
The department of women and child development has proposed some radical changes in the Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of Children) Amendment (JJ) Bill, 2005,
which will make child adoption as easy as opening a bank account. The doors have also been opened for foreigners. Perhaps, that's why not everyone is happy with the amendments.Foremost among the changes is a clause that deals with dropping restrictions on prospective parents from abroad who wish to adopt orphaned juvenile children. This, officials say, is to bring the changes at par with other changes in the JJ Act. Activists, meanwhile, fear that the move will lead to wholescale trafficking. "That fear is legitimate when adoptions take place even within the nation," says joint secretary, department of women and child development, Loveleen Kacker. Officials say adoption of children in need of care and protection should be encouraged despite such fears.But the fears are not entirely misplaced. India has one of the worst indicators of child trafficking. It is estimated that 50,000 children disappear annually, of whom nearly 10,000 end up as sex workers. It is aspects like this that must be factored in when changes are proposed, say social workers. Madan Mohan Vidyarthi, an official with the government's Child Welfare Committee, says not much good will come out of easing restrictions on adoption. "Children in conflict with the law are kept in observation homes where they need care and protection till they are rehabilitated. As it is, most of them return to the insecure environment they are fleeing from," says Vidyarthi.He reckons there are close to 500 children in conflict with the law in Delhi alone. They have been hauled up for petty thefts or for acting as conduits for drug dealers. "There is no way such kids will be adopted in the West, which has its own stringent rules on foster care. If our country does not provide enough restrictions on adoption, it will be tough to track the children and their foster parents," says Vidyarthi.The Bill, likely to be debated by Parliament in the monsoon session, has positive aspects also. Namely, the intention of providing a one-stop legislation instead of many conflicting rules. For instance, state governments and voluntary bodies running child/juvenile institutions will have to register themselves under this act. While the Act is being examined closely, an attempt is being made to work on an integrated child protection scheme which may find its way into the 11th Plan once okayed by the Planning Commission. Estimated to cost nearly Rs 2,000 crore, the scheme will put the child at the centre of all plans.An advanced child tracking system with a website giving information on missing children is also being envisaged. A national child helpline is being worked out for abused children. Currently, the helpline is in place in 68 centres which is inadequate compared to the 430 million-strong child population. The scheme will provide funds for the state to create a protective environment for children. It will also lay the roadmap for identifying children who are at risk, bringing within its ambit street children, children of sex workers, child prostitutes, abused children and children of prisoners.Though a little late in the day, the proposed scheme is a welcome move which may affect millions of children.
Magazine Aug 14, 2006


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