ADOPTION AND FOSTER C A R E - AKKA KULKARNI* DOMESTIC AND ...
ADOPTION AND FOSTER C A R E -
AKKA KULKARNI*
DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL
The idea of adoption or foster care or spent in enforcing child legislation.
some kind of legal guardianship is not
I do not propose to talk about Consul-
new. Taking into the family a child who tancy in Guardianship, and the role of
has no family of its own, or is rejected Adoption and Foster Care in child re-
by it, probably dates back to cavemen habilitation or even much about indige-
days, humanity being what it is. Even in nous adoption laws, because these points
these modern days, one hears of stray have already covered by Gokhale, Sohoni,
cases where an animal like a wolf, an ape, Ursekar etc. It may be interesting how-
or a tiger has adopted and brought up, ever to give an idea of how the ICSW
in an animal fashion, a human baby found came to be recognised by the Bombay
abandoned. Guarding minors and provid-
High Court, as a consultant and screening
ing for some kind of care and education organisation for adoption in general, and
and training is evidenced by the old guardianship cases under the Guardians and
Hindu Gurukul conception, and in the Wards Act 1890.
West by the Guilds of services and ap-
It came to the notice of the Bombay
prentices etc. So though adoption and its Juvenile Court a number of years ago that
concepts is not new, still its codification, children were being taken from hospitals,
and its greater necessity dates from fairly maternity homes, and poor families either
recent times. Wherever society has not under so called adoptions, which had no
•ostracised the unmarried mother and her real status, except that some kind of an
illegitimate child, children of the indige-
agreement would be signed by both parties;
nous country are difficult to obtain. Where or under the Guardianship and Wards Act
however ultra marital relations are frown-
through the relevant High Court, without
ed upon, and social stigma attaches itself any kind of inquiries about the abandoned
to an illegitimate child, abandonment and child or the adoptive parents or guar-
rejection of unwanted babies abounds. dians. When a remanded child was thus
Such is the situation in our country even taken away by a foreign couple under the
now. That is why so many orphanages Guardianship and Wards Act while inqui-
and Homes for unwanted children have ries were proceeding, this proved to be an
had to be established. However, with the eye opener. Further, another situation de-
explosion of the population and the con-
veloped where the medical officers in
cepts of necessary family planning being charge of municipal maternity homes ap-
understood by the more privileged classes proached the Juvenile Court and com-
of society, and slowly percolating into the plained that the children abandoned in the
lowest stratas of society, the numbers of unwanted cradles (each such home has a
rejected children are likely to decrease cradle outside where unwanted children can
during the next few decades. Perhaps this be just abandoned) were not obtaining ad-
is wishful thinking, but I do not think so, mission to orphanages and charitable homes
at least from my own experience of 37 as hitherto. It was then discovered that
years of child welfare, 28 of which were formerly Mission orphanages and charita-
* Mrs. Akka Kulkarni is Consultant, Indian Council of Social Welfare and retired
Metropolitan Magistrate.

166
AKKA KULKARNI
ble homes used to receive considerable foster care programme by the court in her
funds from abroad for carrying out their article.
activities, and these children used to be
Being appalled by the lack of proper
taken and brought up and then sent forth inquiry and security in cases coming under
as ayahs, drivers servants, or into so called the Guardianship and Wards Act 1890, it
adoption by families. A further enquiry was suggested to the ICSW that this matter
revealed that many of these so called should be taken up very urgently, which
adoptions resulted in the child being ex-
it did, and today a whole new avenue has
ploited as an unpaid servant, receiving food opened up of inquiries, security, safe-
and clothes and sometime a little pocket guarding, approach, tabulation and re-
money. When these children became adole-
cordation of children and their adoptive
scent, or grown up they very often ran parents under this Act.
away, and heaven alone knows what
International adoption has taken on much
happened to them. Some of these children importance and precedence recently, on
were rescued as vicitms of cruelty, rape, account at the influx of applications for
assault, or found in brothels. There being adoption of Indian children. In fact the
no statistics or inquiries about this type concept of adopting children from other
of child extant, and since they came from countries, particularly under-privileged
all corners of India, it is impossible to say ones, where there is a surplus quantity of
what percentage of such abandoned child-
unwanted or abandoned children, whether,
ren reached such frightening situations. No due to poverty, or War-torn areas, has come
doubt quite a number of them were ade-
into vogue, and international adoption has
quately provided for, or launched into come into existence. Taking a broad or
society with some kind of preparation and racial view it is a good thing. Ultimately
managed to live fairly normal lives. But the world, particularly the present
as I say it is impossible to surmise the day world of space travel, on the
number of such children. This was an-
threshold of finding other planets in-
other eye opener.
habited by some kind of life, is going
It was found that in some of the cases to drive all humanity on this earth to-
the parents or relations could be traced gether, irrespective of race, creed or colour.
after long and protracted inquiries, and Taking the far view, international adoption
that a child had been thrown as a result is gradually paving the way to tolerance,
of (a) a quarrel between parents, (b) one love, understanding, in a word — integra-
of the parents being irresponsible or men-
tion. This is one side of facts. The other
tally deranged, (c) as an act of revenge, side is — are these children who are so lov-
(d) or was lost in a crowd due to excep-
able, so charming when young, really being
tional circumstances and in most of such integrated into the society in which their
cases the children were eagerly taken back adoptive parents live? What happens when
by the parents or the guardians. But by the children become adolescent and start
far the greater majority were truly des-
dating? What happens when they become
titutes and unwanted, and no one could be old enough to work? Do they get the jobs
traced. One of the lessons learnt was that they merit? Or do they have to accept
there are a number of people in this coun-
whatever they can get? In many laws of
try too who want children whether they have adoption, even a child legitimated by
children of their own, or not. Usha Modak adoption cannot inherit entailed property,
has very lightly touched on this type of only the self-earned property of the adoptive

ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE-DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL
167
parent.
men and women are immigrating to South
I know that there is a feeling around in Africa, Australia, America, in fact, all
some places, that India, Korea, Africa, etc. countries where whites are in predominance
etc. should be grateful that children who or in power. There was recently an article
might otherwise die of mal-nutrition and in the Indian Express by Prafulla Patel
neglect, are adopted often through who is an Officer of the Co-ordination
humanity, or through a christian feeling, Committee in Great Britain, of the colour-
and that the countries of origin make too ed and the English population, which makes
much fuss, and too much delay in letting interesting reading as he too mentions this
these unwanted children go. The thing is, fear that has been pointed out by me.
we are thinking of the far ahead life of the One can only wait and see.
children. Unless a sufficient number of
Meanwhile, let us examine the foreign
years lapse, and we can all see with our laws of adoption studied in this article,
own eyes what has happened to the adults and try to find out the similarities and
that the already adopted children have dissimilarities according to the following
become, it is difficult to say or sway either heads:
this way or that way, on international
A. Adopters — and the rules that govern
adoption. The proof of the pudding is
them.
always in the eating. But if you never have
B. Adoptees — and the rules pertaining
the pudding you can neither miss it nor
to them
yearn for it. Taking for granted that these
C. Results of Adoption.
children die in India or have to be com-
mitted to institutions, is the known better
A) In Belgium the adopter/s may be
than the unknown, or is it better to die —Belgian, Belgian and foreigners, provi-
in one's own gutter rather than in another's? ded that they satisfy all the conditions
There is another problem in international imposed on them legally and personally.
adoption. If society in the country of Only people married for over five years,
adoption accepts colour and race diffe-
non-separated, one of which is at least
rence, well and good. But suppose there thirty five years old, except if the child
are such a large number of coloured is a natural one of one of the adopters
children adopted, and they inter marry, whereupon the adopter must be 21 years
and the whole of the country starts being old.
affected, would it lead to fear? Because it
In France the same age conditions per-
is always fear — fear of seeing what is tain except that the adopter must be at
one's own being swamped by strangers, and least fifteen years older than the adoptee
made into their own, that leads to race dis-
or at least ten years older, if the adoptee is
crimination. Witness what is happening in the natural child of one of the spouses. NB
England by and large. Mind you, I am not An adoption that has taken place in
decrying the magnificent efforts being put Belgium is legal in France, but nowhere
in by devoted and zealous bands of workers, else according to French law. In the
and whole villages, and areas in England Netherlands adopters must have cared
who are doing a tremendous job in for the child for at least two years before,
rehabilitating the enormous influx of adoption (Foster Care or Guardianship).
immigrants from the West Indies, Pakistan, Each adopter must be 18 to 50 years older
India, and the African-Indian Communities. than the adoptee. Applicants must have
But it cannot be denied that their young been married five years and non-separat-

168
AKKA KULKARNI
ed. They can be naturalised citizens of any man/woman 25 years old or over
the Netherlands. In Canada any Cana-
may adopt a child with the permission
dian citizen, including a foreigner who of the court. And if the child is related
has gained citizenship, can adopt a child to, or is the natural child of the adopter,
under 21 years of age, provided they or that of the spouse, the minimum age is
themselves are adults. They may adopt 20 years. Married people must adopt joint-
the legitimate/illegitimate child of either ly unless one of them is untraceable or
spouse. They must satisfy all the con-
mentally ill or retarded.
ditions imposed on them by the court.
In Luxembourg the adopter must be
In Italy (with reference to adoption of over 40 years of age and if married and
Indian children) there is no special pro-
non-separated for 8 years, one of the
vision for the age of the adopter; only spouses must be at least 35 years of age
that the adoptive family must apply to the and the marriage must be childless. The
juvenile court with all the documents of Chief-of state may waive the condition of
the foreign court which has given the adop-
eight years of marriage if he thinks fit. The
tee. If the family is found fit, the Ita-
adopters can have no legitimate child nor
lian court ratifies the adoption that is any natural recognised child but may have
general adoption involving no Italian citi-
an adopted child already. Adoptions by two
zenship) if it is special adoption citizen-
people is possible only if they are married
ship is gained after one year in the case of and non-separated. If they are separated,
a childless couple, and three years for a the consent of the remaining spouse is
couple with bio-children. The CIAI required. In Tunisia there are four kinds
makes inquiries and supervises the child. of guardianship (i) Foster care (ii) Public
In England, single persons 25 years old guardianship (iii) Unofficial guardianship
or over 21 years if they are relations of (iv) Adoption. In the case of adoption, the
the child and married people of over 21 adopter must be adult, married, enjoying
years can adopt a child, however the civil rights, be of good moral standing,
adoptive parents and the child must be be physically and mentally healthy, and
residing in England itself (U.K.). In West in a position to meet the needs of the
Germany the adopters must be over 35 child. The difference in age between the
years of age and the adoptee under 21. adopters and adoptee must be fifteen
Adopters can adopt more children even years, and an exception is made if the
if they already have adopted children, adoptee is the child of the adopter's wife.
however, they cannot adopt a child, if a A Tunisian can adopt a foreigner.
legitimate natural child already exists;
B) With reference to rules regarding
but German Courts can waive the age of the adoptees or the child to be adopted,
the adopter and grant adoption even if the following are the conditions in the
a natural child exists, provided they various countries enumerated above.
think it fit. In Demark the adopter must
In Belgium the child's age of consent
be over 25 years of age. A married couple is fifteen and his age of majority is twenty-
must adopt a child jointly unless one of one and the consent of real parents, rela-
them has disappeared or is insane, or tions or guardians is necessary unless
mentally deficient or is an irrational person. waived under the exceptions already men-
Married people can adopt each others tioned. In France the age of consent is
natural or adopted child. Only married fifteen, age of majority twentyone and
people can be joint adopters. In Sweden consent of parents etc., is necessary as

ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE-DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL
169
already stated. In the Netherlands the provisional adoption, and official tutorship.
age of consent is fourteen, age of majority Actually all these can be placed under
twentyone and consent of parents neces-
the heading of foster care or guardianship,
sary with the exceptions already given that means that the child does not neces-
above. In Canada the age of consent is sarily change his name, religion, or
twelve years, the age of majority twenty-
acquire citizenship or rights of inheritance.
one years, and consent of parents like In fact in some countries like Italy,
the other countries already mentioned. In Belgium, West Germany, France, etc., even
Italy the age of consent is fourteen years, in the case of full adoption the child is
and if the child is eighteen its approval not entitled to entailed property; that
must be secured, the age of majority is would go to the legal heirs, or legal and
twentyone and the consent of parents legitimate children if any. The child
necessary as above. In England (U.K.) however has a right to some of the self
the age of consent is not stated, but the earned property of the adoptive parents.
age of majority is eighteen and the con-
In every law of adoption there is a
sent of the real parents etc., is necessary provision for annulment of (a) Guardian-
as in other countries. In West Germany ship (b) Foster Care (c) Adoption on the
the age of consent is not stated, the age application of (a) the real parents (b) the
of majority twentyone years and the con-
child if old enough (c) the inspecting
sent of parents necessary with the excep-
authority or youth welfare service. There
tions already mentioned. In Denmark is also provision for enquiry prior to
the age of consent is twelve years, and adoption, and prior to annulment by the
that of majority twentyone years and the relevant youth welfare society, children's
consent of parents as already mentioned. aid society, or any other organisation
In Sweden the age of consent is twelve either governmental; or authorised by the
years, and the age of majority is twenty government as described by each Act.
years, and the consent of parents is Most countries seem to agree that the
necessary except for the exceptions detailed objective, selective home study
already stated. In Luxembourg the age of the adoptive or foster parents is most
of consent is not stated, and the age of necessary. Not only that, but supervision
majority is twentyone years and the con-
of the child by such an agency is also
sent of parents is as stated above. provided for in most cases.
Tunisia — the age of consent is not stat-
As there seems to be more and more
ed nor is the age of majority but pre-
childlessness in some parts of the world,
sumably it is eighteen years, as in most and over population in others, the desire
eastern countries and the consent of to adopt is natural. This is also the case
parents etc., is necessary.
where family planning obtains mostly
C) The results of adoption are self among higher classes and a superfluity
evident since the child acquires a home, of children among lower communities,
a name, adoptive parents, certain rights results in desire for adoption among the
of inheritance, and citizenship of the higher classes and rejection of children
adopted country in most cases.
among lower classes. Wherever there is
A study of the legislation of these a cause or need, effect has to take place.
twelve countries shows that most of them Nature it is said abhors a vacuum. Is it
have some kind of foster care or guardian-
right to hand over children because they
ship and provide for general adoption, are wanted now irrespective of their

170
AKKA KULKARNI
ultimate fate, or ignorant of it? As I have in Hitler's Germany keeping the purity
said before it is impossible to give a of the race, was considered as almost as
correct or accurate estimate at the a religion. If countries can change within
moment. Only scrupulous research of one or two decades what is going to hap-
adoption, domestic and international, pen to these children, if the country
fifteen, twenty or even fifty years hence does not change for the better? Ultimately
can supply the answer, the statistics that all countries and races will have to be-
are necessary to give the correct picture. come one if they are going to stand
It is quite true that thousands of children united, otherwise there will have to be
in countries like India die of malnutri-
a line of demarcation between the whites
tion, abandonment or exposure. Or in and the non-whites. In the meanwhile
countries like Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia should we go on exporting our unwanted
the existence of war or civil war as it children merely hoping for the best with-
may be called also leads to death, depriva-
out correct or adequate knowledge? That
tion and orphanship. Many countries like is the crucial question. However, it is
the Scandinavian countries make no dis-
quite clear that the Indian adoption Act
crimination of race or colour. Others
needs to be passed very urgently. Most
want Asian children as they look upon
it as christian charity, or an act of countries, even small ones, have an Adop-
humanity. Yet other countries like tion Act, why should we be the excep-
America, England and only recently as tion?
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Prafulla Patel's article, Indian Express 20th March 1975.
The Law of Adoption, Belgium.
The Law of Adoption, France.
The Law of Adoption, Netherlands.
The Canadian Adoption Act (Relevant portions of the Immigration rules as well)
The Law of adoption, Italy (Civil code and rules for adopting foreign, especially Indian
children)
The Law of Adoption, United Kingdom.
The Law of Adoption, West Germany (Civil codes and law regarding adoption of foreign
children).
The Law of Adoption, Denmark.
The Law of Adoption, Sweden.
Relevant sections regarding adoption, from the civil code Luxembourg.
The Tunisian Adoption Act.
The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXXVII, No. 2, (July 1976)