Adoption pleas for COVID-19 orphans are illegal, detrimental: Experts

Social media posts appealing for adoption of children orphaned during COVID-19 are illegal, warn experts. They appeal that citizens must dial helpline 1098 to pass on information about children in need of care and protection.

With deaths due to the COVID-19 on the rise, Twitter and Whatsapp have been flooded with citizens sharing details of children who have lost either both their parents or the only living parent to the disease and pleading for them to be adopted. On Monday, Chairperson Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Anurag Kundu, wrote to Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava flagging such posts as possible cases of trafficking and requesting for a probe in each of these instances.

Activists warn that such posts are illegal under Section 80 and 81 of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, 2015, which prohibit offering or receiving children outside the processes laid down under the Act as well as their sale and purchase. Such acts are punishable with three to five years in jail or ₹1 lakh in fine.

“There is a process as per the JJ Act which needs to be followed with children who have been orphaned. If someone has information about a child in need of care, then they must contact one of the four agencies: Childline 1098, or the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC), District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) or the helpline of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights,” says Vaidehi Subramani, Chairperson of CWC, South Delhi District.

“Following this, the CWC will assess the child and place him or her in the immediate care of a Specialised Adoption Agency. We will speak to the child, examine what is in his or her best interest and whether there are fit persons from among the relatives who can be given the custody,” Ms. Subramani explained.

“When there is a child without a family, the State becomes the guardian. Parents who bring home orphaned children without following the process under the JJ Act are likely to undergo heart-ache because if the government comes to know, it will take custody of the child,” says child rights activist Neena Nayak.

She also cautions against adoption being perceived as the best option for the child.

“Adoption is only one of the options, it is not the only option. Such children will have uncles or aunts who can look after them. Children may desire a contact with their own family and to remain within the same heritage. In such circumstances it is very important to guard the rights of the children involved,” Ms. Nayak says.

“This is the time to focus on kinship care. The Ministry of Women and Child Development and all concerned State departments should immediately roll out a kinship care programme and make it part of foster care provisions under the JJ Act,” says Bharti Ali, Co-founder of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

Activists also emphasised on the need for District Child Protection Units to be activated and assigned the task of surveillance to keep a track of the number of children affected due to COVID-19. In fact, Karnataka issued an order on Monday appointing a nodal officer to identify all such children who have been orphaned and “to ensure necessary support as well as long term arrangements”.


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