Orphans who are up for adoption need to go through a proper legal procedure, and register with the Central Adoption Registration Agency, however NGOs fear these social media messages will lead to unregulated adoptions.
Mumbai: Rajesh Menon (name changed), friend of a deceased COVID patient was trying to help his friend’s now orphaned children. “The children were really small, and they had no one else to take care of them. It was very urgent,” he said. However, what he didn’t know that sharing information of adoption through social media is illegal. “I was trying to help out, I didn’t know the legalities,” he said.
Child adoption messages are on the rise as the second wave hit India. Children who have lost their parents to COVID are also called COVID orphans. The Ministry of Women and Child Developmentidentified 577 such children all over India, after conducting a survey. The adoption messages often introduce the child, then give a contact number. This is not a legal way to adopt. Advocate Darshan Ingole, a child adoption lawyer said anyone found sharing such details about the orphans can be arrested. “There is a process. The child has to be registered with the Central Adoption Registration Agency (CARA), then they find social workers to assist the children and do background checks of potential foster parents,” he said. He added that anyone flouting these rules can be jailed under the Human Rights Trafficking Act and the Child Protection Right Act.
Ramakrishna Reddy, officer, Child Protection Units, Mumbai said many of these messages are fake and the numbers do not work. However, some of the numbers offer money and people should not get trapped in that. “We have put advertisements and set up helpline numbers to help these children,” he said.
Union Minister Smriti Irani had also tweeted warning about these messages. She tweeted saying that people should stop sharing these messages immediately. TThe Ministry of Women and Child Development is also coordinating with states and hospitals to get more information on these children and provide them with help.
Dhananjay Tingle, Executive Director, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, is worried that these unregulated messages will lead to an increase in child trafficking cases. “We have filed complaints, we are trying to track down the numbers. We are also coordinating with the states to make sure this is stopped,” he said.