Adopting a child
‘The law speaks about the “welfare of the child” and the interpretation by the administrators is that the welfare of the child would not be served if there is a disabled person adopting…I know at least two recent cases where one of the disabled parents is visually challenged. They were first discouraged by adoption agencies and then when force and influence was used, relented.’
Kanchan Pamnani, Visually Impaired Lawyer and Solicitor, Mumbai
Can any woman adopt a child in India? Will my age (I am 41) or disability be considered negative factors?
According to the law , prospective adoptive parents who have a composite age (your age and your spouse’s age added together) of 90 years or less can adopt infants or young children. A single parent who is not older than 45 years is also eligible to adopt infants or young children. In case of older and special needs children, the upper age limit can be relaxed based on the merits of the case. In any case, you need to be an adult, and the age difference between you and your child has to be at least twenty one years.
If your concerns aren’t about the law, then there is no ‘ideal’ age to become a mother. Maybe in your community it is more common to see someone with their first baby in their late twenties, and with a complete family by their mid-thirties. However, it doesn’t mean anything that differs from this norm is incorrect. In fact, the norms around marriage and children are themselves changing a lot, and what held true five, ten or fifteen years ago is often no longer the case. Women are getting married when they think it’s the right age, and having kids only when they are ready – whether it is giving birth to them or adopting them.
Similarly, while there is no legal barrier preventing someone with a disability from adopting, you may still face stigma. Adoption agencies may try to give you a negative mark stating you won’t be able to look after the child and his or her welfare, but don’t get daunted by this. A disabled woman who is a biological mother takes care of her child, doesn’t she? Some may argue that since you are disabled and need assistance yourself, how will you raise a baby? Again, nondisabled mothers often hire help to assist them in looking after their children.
Given your disability – and your partner’s, if he or she is also disabled – people may also make cruel remarks about how you are ruining the child’s life by adding unwanted ‘burdens’ and ‘responsibilities’ to his or her life. This is not true! Every mother is different in ways that impact upon a child – some are intelligent, some are argumentative, some are working professionals with little free time, and others like you, may be impaired. You may not have the unconditional support of family, friends and the larger community in the same way that other couples do.
Single women, lesbian women, and other women who are seen as not conforming to the societal ideal of womanhood – including working women – face similar issues. Even when there is an outward show of support, the decision is often questioned. ‘Do you really think you can handle this?’ ‘Are you being fair to the child you will adopt?’ ‘What will people think if an unmarried woman has a child?’ Society often frowns upon single women who choose to bring up children, under the mistaken belief that without a man and a woman, the family unit cannot be complete. In reality, there are many different types of families – joint families, single parents, gay parents – and the happiness of a child does not depend on the family structure alone.
By choosing to adopt a child, you are giving him or her a loving and caring mother and family – you as a mother are more than your impairment, and no one should make you feel otherwise. Many women with disabilities have successfully adopted and raised children, and so can you.
My disability is genetic. Should I adopt a baby to avoid giving birth to a disabled child?
You can adopt a non-disabled child if you want to, but here’s a few things to consider. Even if you have a genetic disability, it is not necessary that your impairment will be passed on to your baby. Genetic disabilities do skip generations. For example, if you and your husband are visually impaired, your children may still be sighted. It’s a popular myth that ‘disability breeds disability’, but that’s often not the case.
Also consider that your adopted child may have her own set of genetic issues, which may or may not manifest in her lifetime. Or your adopted child may acquire an impairment later on in life. So if you want to adopt to ensure you will have a non-disabled child, there is no guarantee of that. And remember, you have lived your life up to this point with an impairment – who or what’s to say that your child won’t manage fine too?
(Source: ‘Eugenics’ on Wikipedia )
Can I adopt a child with a disability? If yes, then what should I think about before taking the decision?
Here’s a few things to consider when adopting a disabled child. There are varied impairments and each has its own challenges. So it is important to think carefully about the type of child you can best parent, and to be honest with yourself in making this decision. For example, you may be comfortable with a physically impaired child, but be unsure about adopting a child with a mental disability. If you are considering adopting a child who will have special needs, it is vital to get as much information on the nature and limitations of the impairment. Spending time with parents who have children with similar impairments can immensely help. Try to realistically assess what you can handle – emotionally, physically, financially and in every other way.
If you are considering adopting a disabled child, please don’t do so out of charity or pity – a child with an impairment is equally capable of navigating life and adding joy to your life as any other child, given a loving and supportive environment.