Why Only a Fraction of Orphans are Legally Adoptable in India

Why Only a Fraction of Orphans are Legally Adoptable in India

Hi there! My name is Rachel, and I am the new Blogger for AFFEO. I grew up with the military, and then married military, and I have moved 22 times and counting in my life. I feel that moving so much has given me the gift of getting to see and experience different cultures and cuisines, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I consider myself to be a family-focused extrovert who loves tea, art, food, anthropology, and helping people around the world.

My goal in writing these blogs is to bring deeper insight into what we do at A Family For Every Orphan and to give more detail into how we help these children and their unique circumstances.

Until recently, I was unaware of the STAGGERING number of orphans and the bleak situation that most of them find themselves in India. I had been asked to write a blog covering these topics and to show how A Family For Every Orphan helps with this, but it seems there is SO MUCH information, that I actually need to write two! In this first one, I’ll discuss the background information, and in part 2, I’ll discuss how AFFEO and our partners assist.

First, let’s break out the statistics for some credibility and background info.

  • There are approximately 1.356 billion people currently living in India [1]
  • Of those, approximately 31 million children are orphans
    • Some of these children may live in the street, in orphanages, or in the home of a single parent or relative
    • They may or may not be legally adoptable
  • There are 232,937 children in institutions [2]
    • This number is likely much higher due to underreporting
  • There are currently 20,000 potential parents on a waitlist for Domestic Adoption in India, while only 2,000 kids are currently registered. [3]

This means only .9% of the orphans in India are currently legally adoptable.

Less than one percent. I still have trouble processing this.

But why?! Well… in a nutshell, there are three reasons:

1. Complex Adoption Law(s) and Social Norms

Technically, there is only one relevant adoption law in India- the adoption regulations of 2017 based on the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 2015 and Juvenile Justice (JJ) Rules of 2016. However, there are many old religious laws still being used and as practices are not regulated consistently, the issue becomes even more complicated.  [4,5,6]

The outlook on orphans in India is that they belong in orphanages. Plain and simple. Moreover, there is a stigma that hovers over adoption in India. Indian culture places value on the ideas of fertility and family. So much so, that the very idea of adoption suggests a defectiveness or inadequacy in a marriage or an individual. Adoption is an absolute last resort, with couples even choosing secret gamete donation as a means of bypassing infertility before adoption.

2. Lack of Financing for Background Checks

It costs about $70 per child to run background checks to make sure they are legally adoptable for our partners in India. (An all too common story is someone finds a small child on the streets who can’t communicate who their parents are, and so they are placed into an orphanage, even if the parents do not want to terminate their rights. The background checks help by insuring that this isn’t the case before a child is adopted.) But there’s no official financing for these background checks, and the orphanage directors certainly cannot afford it. It would cost $16.3 million to run these checks for every child, and those are just the children who are known, in orphanages!

3. Failing Systems and Infrastructure

When potential parents look to adopt, they fill out a form stating what a “perfect match” will be for them. (i.e. a male baby with no medical issues and light skin.) The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) of India doesn’t have a department to follow up with prospective parents on these matches. Without a division to follow up, CARA doesn’t have the means to check if these parents would be interested in adopting a child that does not exactly meet the original specifications. Parents are placed on a waiting list until their “exact category” is found.

And it gets worse…

As stated earlier, CARA’s system only holds 2000 children at one time. [7]


This means millions of children can’t become legally adoptable because the government has not applied adequate resources towards getting the children registered. And the system can’t generate a profile for them until those first 2000 are adopted. Which of course, is at a standstill, since there is no department to check with parents about potential matches outside of the original specifications. Therefore, millions of children are left without a chance for a forever family.

This is where A Family for Every Orphan comes in. Check back soon for Part 2 – How AFFEO and Our Partners Help.


[1] United Nations Estimate, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

[2] ‘About 2,000 CCIs not registered despite repeated calls, may face closure’. (Aug 19, 2018). Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/about-2000-ccis-not-registered-despite-repeated-calls-may-face-closure/articleshow/65459522.cms?

[3]  Adoption: Only 1 child for 10 parents in waiting. (Aug 6, 2018). Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/adoption-only-1-child-for-10-parents-in-waiting/articleshow/65291133.cms

[4]The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. 1956. (India) Available at: http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/hinduadoptionsact/hinduadoptionsact.html. (Accessed: Sept 18, 2018)

[5] Rizvi, Sayyid Muhammad. (Oct 29, 1990). Adoption in Islam. Referenced from https://www.al-islam.org/articles/adoption-islam-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi

[6] The Guardians and Wards Act. 1890. (India) Available at: http://www.helplinelaw.com/docs/the-guardians-and-wards-act-1890. (Accessed: Sept 18, 2018).

[7]Adoption: Only 1 child for 10 parents in waiting. (Aug 6, 2018). Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/adoption-only-1-child-for-10-parents-in-waiting/articleshow/65291133.cms

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