The concept ‘family’ is much respected and valued in almost every household in our society. As such, children are thought to bring in goodwill and pride to a family.
But this mind-set has evolved over the years and due to certain biological as well as socio-economic factors, children are given less attention in today’s society. Giving children away for adoption bares its own emotional and psychological burden. But on the other hand many parents are willing to adopt children and shed light to their lives.
When weighing the pros and cons of this subject, in most instances both parties consider the well-being of the child. However, the process of child adoptions in Sri Lanka is quite time consuming and somewhat tedious.
In order to give an insight to our readers on this process Life Online spoke to a few individuals to find out the criteria for adopting a child, the frequency of child adoptions as well as the legal perspective of this process.
Adoption process in Sri Lanka
Types of adoptions
There are three ways in which adoptions take place in Sri Lanka.
· Private adoptions : this is where the mother writes an affidavit stating that she is willing to give the child for adoption and produce it in courts. After a few sittings in courts, if the judge receives all the necessary documents, the child will be given to the other party. However another important fact that should be taken into account is that a mother cannot take a decision of whether to give the child for adoption during her pregnancy.
· Department adoptions : these are recommended by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services (DPCCS). Although there are many child births that happen every year, many infants are abandoned. In these circumstances the child is handed over to the Prajapathi Children’s home in Panadura.
· Court adoptions : these are also done following an order from the Department.
Criteria for eligibility of applicants
If a couple visits the Department and requests to adopt a child, the following criteria should be met by the applicants :
- Applicants should have an income of more than Rs. 30,000
- Applicants should be more than 25 years of age
- The age gap between the applicants and the adoptee child should at least be 21 years
- A house is compulsory
- More than five years of marriage and no positive signs of child birth
- After five years of marriage if they do not have children they should produce a medical certificate
- Grama Niladhari reports
- Details of assets
- Request letter to the DPCCS
Applicants should go with these documents and produce them to the DPCCS. If the parents have met these criteria and are eligible, they will be interviewed. Thereafter a permit is issued to them. In the meantime a probation officer will visit the house where the adoptee child will be housed in future. If it is a suitable setting, he will inform the department.
Permitted applicants can check the children’s lists which will be made public twice a year. The children’s list will appear through the different children’s homes. All eligible applicants who get through the criteria can request for three children. A closing date is also given and all applicants are called for interviews. A circular is sent through the Western Province DPCCS to inform them accordingly.
Applicants are graded in these interviews and those who get the highest number of points are allowed to adopt a child. Thereafter they can give a letter to the children’s home or to the district court after which they could visit the child and develop a relationship until the legal procedures are completed.
Thereafter the courts will officially handover the child on a two year temporary court order. The child’s birth certificate is then drafted by the name of the parents.
When permits are issued they are advised on how to adopt a child.
80% of children in children’s homes have both their parents. Children end up at children’s homes through either of the following ways:
- Parents willingly bring them to orphanages due to reasons such as poverty
- Some children are brought to the notice of the Commissioner of DPCCS. These children are either abandoned or have gone through physical abuse
- Children are also sent to children’s homes through courts
There are 120 children’s homes in the Western Province housing over 4000 children which are mainly run by volunteer groups.
Five government institutions which function as detention and children’s homes too are open for children. These include:
- Makola detention home
- Makola certified school
- Rammuthugala detention home
- Rammuthugala certified school
- Prajapathi children’s home, Panadura
Children in these institutions are found guilty of rape, drug peddling, having links to the underworld, possessing weapons and various other crimes. In addition to that, there are aggressive children and those who have been victims of physical abuse as well.
It is recommended to adopt children through a legal process - Chandima Dissanayake
The entire process is done free-of-charge and the Department is responsible for all adoptions that happen through them. Under the supervision of the incumbent commissioner, she has exerted much effort in making regulations more stringent in order to secure the lives of all children in these institutions.
Speaking to us, Commissioner of the DPCCS, Chandima Dissanayake said that many children are abandoned and are left to wander on the streets.
“Adoptions happen mainly due to poverty and other social issues. There are instances when applicants appear to show more love and affection towards the children than their actual parents. We have decided not to give away children to foreign couples. There have been several reported incidents and therefore we do not want to take a risk. Also in the case of private adoptions, there are cases where children are sold for many millions of rupees. There are also instances when the mother has promised to give the child to many people and has taken money. It is always recommended to do an adoption through a legal process or with the involvement of a lawyer. The entire adoption process would take between six to seven months provided that these criteria are met and the applicants and the Department do their tasks efficiently.”
Some people are not genuinely interested in adopting children - Child rights lawyer
Speaking to us, a legal expert working on child rights issues who wished to remain anonymous said that it is important to see whether shortening the legal process would be effective.
“Adoptee children are not given to blood relations in most instances. Therefore it takes some time for them to form a relationship with the parents. It doesn’t work out like a natural relationship. Some people are not genuinely interested in adopting children. They sometimes want children for inheriting property or for other illegal purposes such as acquiring organs. The courts always try to give the best decision. Therefore the judges are quite concerned about these procedures. District-wise there are more than 500 applicants in the waiting list. Most of the time applicants ask for boys but after a few months or years there are cases where the child is rejected due to astrological analyses.”
"The courts conduct what is called a ‘summary procedure’ where the judge will do a thorough investigation about the eligibility of the applicants to adopt a child. They have to meet certain criteria from age to employment, owning a house and also have a considerable income. If the applicants are very young they again can’t apply for adoption. Some people don’t have the necessary resources to raise children. Therefore they end up giving children up for adoption. The judge always considers the well-being of the child.
The mother of the child has to produce an affidavit in courts saying that she is willingly giving the child up for adoption. These cases are heard in open courts but that is prohibited. Although some parents willingly take children for adoption, sometimes the child will face a lot of psychological stress. Say for example the child goes to a house but the to-be parents are in bad terms with the neighbours. Once the child reaches a certain age, there’s a tendency for the neighbour to disclose what’s going on around him and the child would go through a lot of psychological stress. There are issues in affidavits and when applicants don’t meet the criteria as mentioned earlier.
While pregnant a mother cannot agree to give the child away for adoption. In addition to that ‘case conferences’ are also held to inquire about children who have been abandoned in hospitals or on the streets. So these procedures are somewhat time- consuming because we always have to consider the well-being of the child.”