Recently, a three-year-old Indian origin girl Sherin Mathews had gone missing in the United States. She was missing from the suburbs of Dallas after her father said he punished her for not drinking milk. He told her to stand outside by herself at 3 am near an alley behind her home, from where she went missing.
But as the case progressed and the body of the toddler was found in a culvert, Wesley Mathew changed his statement later saying that the girl choked on milk and died in the family garage before he hid her body. After which he was arrested and charged with injury to a child, a first-degree felony that carries a maximum punishment of 99 years in prison. This case was widely reported in Indian media and abroad.
The girl, in this case, was a special child who had evelopmental issues and limited verbal communication skills. Her foster father Wesley Mathews who hails from Kerala and his wife Sini Mathews reportedly adopted the girl two years ago from an orphanage in Nalanda, Bihar, on June 23 in 2016 after being abandoned by her biological parents.
Here in the case, whether Sherin chocked on milk or was it a murder is a question which will be answered only after thorough investigation but serious questions arise about the serious drawbacks in the adoption system.
According to Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), from April 2016 to March 2017 the in-country adoption figures were 3,210 and the intercountry adoption figures were 578. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), under the Women and Child Development Ministry, is the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and intercountry adoptions.
Speaking about the adoption procedure, Pournima Gadiya, a Children Welfare Committee (CWC) member says 60 days’ time period is given for a thorough background check of the child and efforts are taken to find the biological parents of the child. If the parents or parent is known then it is checked if they want the child back, if not then the district court declares the child to be legally free for adoption.
Here the CWC plays a vital role before the child is legally free. It helps to trace the parents of the child and till then the child is kept at the temporary care centre. But once the child is legally free then the district court along with the adoption agency plays a role in the adoption process.
Also, during the adoption process, most of the information of the child is kept confidential.
But she also points out that in case the adoptees are Indian then it is mandatory for them to appear in the district court but in case of foreigners, it is not compulsory for them to be present in the court, which is a major drawback in case of intercountry adoption.
Once the child is adopted and starts staying with the family there are follow-ups and the parents are bound to give a monthly report to the agency about the well-being of the child. But in rare cases, the follow-ups are not carried out properly which makes the children vulnerable to abuse and ill-treatment.
Another major drawback these days is there is always a high demand in the developed countries for adopting children from developing countries.
According to a study, initially intercountry adoption was a type of humanitarian response to the child, now the focus has shifted to parents unable to have children. So, in other words, the right to be a parent is the primary concern than the right for the child to have caring and capable parents.
In such cases, children are more prone to abuse and violence. Also, intercountry adoptions have become a lucrative market where children are effectively sold.
Cases like these make it clear that intercountry adoptions have many drawbacks and so strict guidelines should be drawn by the Indian government for adoption and thorough follow-ups are a must to protect the rights of a child and to keep him/ her safe from abuse and violence.