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A mother’s notes on what the endless wait to adopt a child feels like

From completing the rigorous paperwork to exchanging notes on WhatsApp groups, a mother shares her journey of adopting her daughter

While a lot of practicalities go into planning an adoption, that moment when a couple gets a call for adoption is all heart. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO
While a lot of practicalities go into planning an adoption, that moment when a couple gets a call for adoption is all heart. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO

“Please describe the procedures you and your spouse used to reach a decision.”

This wasn’t an inquiry raised by a psychologist during a couple’s therapy session, but a question in the Home Study Report (HSR). My husband and I were required to fill this as the preliminary step towards applying with the Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which comes under the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development, to adopt our daughter. From assessing the quality of the marriage of the Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) and the financial position to the motivation behind the adoption, the HSR interrogates everything. Since safety of the child is at the center of this due diligence, we responded to the questions even while squirming internally.

The online submission of the report is usually followed by visit of a social worker to the prospective parents’ home to validate the responses. During such a visit, people put forward their best selves forward to not get rejected on grounds of being physically, mentally and financially incapable of raising the child. On the day of our scheduled home-study, the house was vacuumed, our clothes were ironed, and freshly-baked cookies were laid out with tea. The social worker inspected every corner of our house while asking us the questions in the HSR, tallying the answers we had submitted. She went back pleased that we had mosquito mesh in our balcony and a common play area for kids in the apartment complex.  

My husband and I finished the formalities after a friend, who had adopted, urged us to put in the paperwork, while warning us about the 1.5-2 year-long-waiting period between registering with CARA and getting the initial call for adoption. This was May 2020. My husband was feeling the void of a child during the covid-19 lockdown. I was done with futile IVF cycles. And that’s how we joined the waiting list.

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Soon thereafter, our adoptive-parent friends added us to various WhatsApp and Facebook groups consisting largely of PAPs and a few adoptive parents who had been there, done that. On these groups, the communities shared steps to follow—from getting referral of a child to securing the final adoption order. Some even shared a checklist of things to carry when going to bring the child home. There was also general conversation on books and movies on adoption. The WhatsApp groups would buzz on referral days when CARA would match children in the adoption pool with parents in the waiting list. The PAPs would often guess when their lucky day would arrive based on their date of registration. Under the new system, parents would get to choose zones—east, west, north or south— instead of states. The age bracket and gender that parents mentioned as an option also added to the waiting period. For instance, for those who had ticked the age-bracket of 0-4 years had a longer waiting period—almost 3.5 years.

As we hit the three-year mark of our registration, my husband started charting referral dates of PAPs (as shared on the WhatsApp groups) on an Excel Sheet to codify when we would receive ours. But during some weeks, the CARA referral algorithm (which nobody has been able to crack) would throw the Excel formula off.

Anyways, just when my husband had convinced me that in any scenario, 2023 was perhaps not the year we would get our baby, my phone rang on Wednesday, 13 December 2023, around noon. I was almost not going to pick up the call from an unknown number, thinking it must be telemarketing. The man on the other side informed me that he was calling from the Specialized Adoption Agency (SAA) in Gujarat, where a child had been matched to our profile. I couldn’t believe it as I hadn’t received an email or SMS from CARA regarding the referral, which was the protocol. But the caller urged me to log into my CARA portal. When I did, it was indeed there: the passport size photo of the child, Medical Examination Report (MER) and Child Study Report (CSR). 

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I hadn’t heard my heartbeat clearer: Our 48-hour window to accept or let go of the referral had begun. I frantically called my husband who was travelling for work. We got on a Zoom call, quickly shared a moment of disbelief and excitement, and opened the list of pediatricians we had prepared to send the MER to. And so, by the end of the window, we hit the ‘accept’ button on the portal. We booked our tickets to fly to Ahmedabad the following morning and drive a couple of hours to the agency to meet ‘our daughter’. Needless to say, I was restless throughout the journey.

At the agency, when they brought her to the administration area to meet us and the petite damsel in oversized, mismatched clothes locked eyes with ours, we knew she was the piece in our hearts that was missing. We might have written in our HSR that we make our decisions by weighing the pros and cons of all scenarios, but here was a no-brainer. 

Smita Pranav Kothari lives in Bengaluru with her husband and six-month-old daughter. Between burping the baby and changing her diapers, Smita finds time to eat, nap, and write.


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