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Spanish couple abandon adopted Indian child, Bhopal agency under the scanner

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Shelter home allegedly misled parents on age of children; Italian couple also writes to Indian authorities against agency.

New Delhi: A Spanish couple has reportedly abandoned a girl they adopted from an agency in Madhya Pradesh after they were allegedly deceived about her age, the latest in a spate of controversies plaguing shelter homes across the country.

The case is the second such instance involving Udaan, a Bhopal-based Special Adoption Agency (SAA), which has also been accused by an Italian couple of providing them with “misleading” health and age information about a girl they had adopted.

The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry is now tracking the cases after receiving emails from both countries highlighting the alleged violations by the Bhopal agency.

“This (the abandonment) could have been done because parents are sometimes reluctant to adopt older children… But this is a clear violation of laws and brings a bad name to the country,” an official in the WCD ministry, who closely tracks the issue of adoption, said. 

ThePrint has also learnt that the Central Adoption Resources Agency (CARA) had issued two show-cause notices to the NGO in January for several alleged irregularities, including violation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, receiving gifts from potential adoptive parents, collusion with a family that was found to have taken a child illegally, among others.

Also read: US adoption agency could be punished for Sherin Mathews death

In one case, the agency allegedly withheld information that a child was born to a rape survivor, CARA had noted.

Udaan, however, denies the allegations. While it does not rule out the possibility of the children’s declared ages being false, it, however, said that it is the district Child Welfare Committee that determines the age of a child.

“Every child in our agency is received at the order of the CWC, and in the order, the age of the concerned child is written by CWC. In many cases, apart from this, no other document related to birth date is obtained. The agency does not determine the date of birth of a child,” Udaan said in an email response to ThePrint’s queries.

It also said that there has been no irregularity with any of the children adopted and added that it was being falsely targeted for doing appreciable work.

Abandonment in Spain

In January this year, the Spanish couple adopted the girl they believed was seven years old. They abandoned her in June when a bone ossification test in Madrid revealed that she was over 13 years old. The teenager is now in the custody of a protection centre in Spain.

In a letter to Indian authorities, written in June, the Spanish agency tasked with tracking adoption in the country has said that the couple initially were suspicious of the child’s age as she was 138 cm tall at the time of adoption — the average age of a 7-year-old child is about 120 cm.

The letter alleges that authorities at Udaan convinced them that Indian children have a larger physique in general.

Once in Madrid, the parents realised that the girl was already menstruating, unusual for a 7-year-old. Her follow-up report submitted by the adoption agency in Spain stated that the child is undergoing “cerebral stress caused by over-stimulation”.

“The parents abandoned the child because they were simply not prepared to adopt a 13-year old child and were misled,” the WCD official said.

Indian authorities are now seeking “alternative rehabilitation” for the child, ThePrint has learnt.

Angry parents in Italy

In another case, the Bhopal shelter home is learnt to have not only allegedly lied to adoptive parents in Italy about the age of a child but also to have deliberately withheld information about her tuberculosis-infected thumb. The child claims to be 12 years old, while the NGO had stated that she was 9 years.

“The child had a communicable disease that her parents could’ve easily contracted, and yet this information was not shared by the NGO…besides, they also tutored her to tell her parents that it is only an injury,” the WCD official told ThePrint.

Moreover, the official said, Udaan allegedly did not provide any medical treatment to her while she was in their custody, thereby considerably aggravating her condition – an allegation strongly repudiated by Udaan.

As long as the child was in their custody, she did not show any symptoms pointing towards tuberculosis, the Bhopal adoption agency said. All her medical documents were shown to the parents at the time they secured the custody of the child, it added.

Also read: This is the reason why Indians adopt more girls than boys

The Italian parents, however, allege that the child told them that she was tutored to hide her medical condition. In a scathing letter written to an adoption agency in Rome, the adoptive parents say they are “shocked that such a thing can happen in India”, and that the parents “reserve the right to take legal steps to obtain compensation for the moral and financial damage”.

The letter, seen by ThePrint, further goes on to “denounce with indignation the scandal of a child left without cure and the deliberate lies to her future parents”.

“In adoption cases, a lot is based on trust…especially foreign parents are very unsuspecting and adopt whichever child comes their way, as opposed to Indian parents who are particular about the gender, physical appearance among others,” another ministry official in the know of the two cases said.

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