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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

1) About Us & Objectives


We are a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) couple living in Singapore. We decided to adopt our child from India some time ago and having gone through the process, want to share our experience.

We hope that the few notes we have made here will be useful to other individuals/couples considering, or already midway through the process of adopting a child from India.

The primary aim of this blog is to record factual information that can be of practical benefit to other adoptive parents. Specifically, if you are an NRI considering adopting a child from Mumbai, you'll find some valuable information and insights here.

This blog does not record our personal motivations or emotions as we journeyed through the process. There are several adoption blogs in the blogosphere whose authors have been generous in sharing their most intimate moments of ups and downs, and many of these stories are deeply touching and inspirational.

Feel free to write to us at singaporeindia.adoption@gmail.com if you have any queries or comments about the information presented on this site or the adoption process in general. If your experience varied in some respect, do share your stories in the comment sections under each heading, so other readers can benefit. If the URL links on any of the pages are broken, again do let me know.

The many striking images that appear on this blog have been shamelessly plagiarized from other websites owned by souls far more artistically gifted than I will ever be. Since I never intend to profit commercially from this blog, I hope if you own the rights to any of these pictures and drop by this blog, you will be magnanimous enough to let them be. But if you have strong objections, I understand - please drop me a line, and I will cease and desist.

Best wishes for your adoption journey,
RM.


Monday, March 29, 2010

2) Before you read on ...


This blog is peppered with acronyms, some of which you may be unfamiliar with. Please refer to the section 'Glossary of Terms & Acronyms' for explanations of these.

You should keep in mind that the information presented here is accurate as far as our personal experience went. You are quite likely to experience procedural / documentation variations depending on the city and the RIPA (Recognized Indian Placement Agency) in India that you register with, how experienced your RIPA's lawyer is and the unique circumstances that surround your particular adoption.

You will want to use the CARA (Central Adoption Resource Agency) website at http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in/ as your primary source of information - unlike this blog, what's on it is both official and (hopefully) kept up-to-date.

Ours was what is known as an inter-country adoption. At the time of our adoption in 2009 (a 1-yr long journey), both of us were Indian citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents. We had our Home Study done in Singapore and subsequently applied to adopt a child from a child welfare home in Mumbai. Hence, we primarily dealt with the bureaucracies in these 2 cities. We had no biological children and this was our first adoption. My wife's maternal home is in Mumbai, so we had a place to stay during the application process and also during the fostering process.

My wife and I are both Hindus, so our adoption went through under HAMA - the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. This act applies to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains & Buddhists only. If you are Christian, Muslim, Parsi, Jewish, or belong to another faith, then the game changes somewhat. You'll usually file your petition under GAWA - the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. This act allows you to become guardians of the child, not his/her parents, technically. There is also a third act under which adoptions can proceed - JJA - the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. An article on this site discusses adoption under JJA - look out for it in the sidebar.

Apart from the legal semantics, I'm not sure it makes much of a difference - for all practical purposes, the child is still yours. Do familiarize yourself with the provisions of the different acts though and talk to your RIPA's lawyer to ensure the adoption is being performed under the correct act.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

3) Glossary of Terms & Acronyms

               
CARA: Central Adoption Resource Authority
The central government body that oversees and regulates all official adoptions in India. Based in R.K. Puram, New Delhi, this is the office to which your final dossier is sent by your RIPA. CARA reviews every case submitted to it and issues a No Objection Certificate if it is satisfied that there are no impediments to a successful adoption. CARA is also the body that issues licenses to RIPAs and EFAAs.
Official CARA Website

EFAA: Enlisted Foreign Agency for Adoption
The agency in your host country authorized by CARA to perform Home Study Reports. The license or Certificate of Enlistment granted by CARA to the foreign agency is valid for 5 years, so do check if your agency's license is still valid and not approaching its expiry date soon.
List of CARA-recognized EFAAs in different countries across the world

GAWA: Guardians and Wards Act
The 1890 act in Indian law under which your adoption (guardianship) petition can be processed if you belong to a religion other than Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism or Jainism.
Full text of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890

HAMA: Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act
The 1956 act in Indian law under which your adoption petition will be processed if you are a Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain.
Full text of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956

HSR: Home Study Report
A comprehensive report assessing your suitability and preparedness as adoptive parents from all angles - physical, psychological, emotional, financial, legal. Issued by the EFAA in your host country - that you have engaged for a fee. A social worker attached to the EFAA will conduct one or more office interviews followed by a visit to your home / place of residence (where your adopted child will eventually reside). Before the HSR is issued, you will also be required to fill in a set of detailed questionnaires about yourself, supply 2 or 3 reference letters, submit to a basic medical test and get a certificate of no criminal conviction from the police in your host country. The HSR is valid for 2 years. If there is no EFAA in your host country, CARA may allow the HSR to be prepared by an agency approved by the High Commission / Embassy of India in that country or by an EFAA in a neighbouring country.
What a typical Home Study Report (HSR) looks like

NOC: No Objection Certificate
Issued by CARA after it has reviewed all documents relating to the adoption case submitted to it - including the Child Study Report, your Home Study Report and all supporting documents. Your RIPA's lawyer can proceed to file the adoption petition in court only after the NOC from CARA has been received.
List of all documents to be submitted to CARA by your RIPA for obtaining NOC

PAP: Prospective Adoptive Parent
That's you.

POA: Power-of-Attorney
A document that authorizes somebody else - typically your own spouse or a representative of your RIPA - to carry out any procedures / sign any documents / file any petitions pertaining to the adoption on your behalf. If you are an NRI working full-time, you probably have little leave to spare and have to reserve it for the time you absolutely have to be in India - e.g. for the adoption court hearing. This is where the POA comes in handy. Armed with this, your wife can travel to India and file the adoption petition and sign any necessary papers on your behalf. Refer to the 'Filing the Adoption Petition' section to see a sample POA.

RIPA: Recognized Indian Placement Agency
The child welfare home, orphanage or agency in India that you will need to approach after the EFAA in your host country has issued you with the Home Study Report. Once you register with a RIPA, they will make efforts to match you with a child. They will require you to fill in their application form and submit your HSR and a set of supporting documents for them to proceed. Every RIPA will have their own lawyer / law firm to handle adoption cases for them, so you do not need to engage your own lawyer.
List of CARA-recognized RIPAs in different states across India

Saturday, March 27, 2010

4) Overview of the Adoption Process


The chart below shows the approximate sequence of events if you are an NRI wishing to adopt a child from India.

*Note*: This is accurate only as far as our experience went - as NRIs resident in Singapore and adopting from Mumbai. I have heard that there are significant differences for NRIs residing in the US and countries which take the Hague Convention very seriously. Specifically, as per Article 29 of the convention, I understand you are forbidden to approach RIPAs directly but must go through your agency in the US. Do perform due diligence, checking with official sources, before you proceed with any step on your adoption journey.

Click on the image to enlarge:

Friday, March 26, 2010

5) Timeline


OK, so there's a timeline in theory and there's a timeline in practice. You won't be surprised to know that sometimes in reality things go much slower than what's been promised by the agencies involved.

On the other hand, you will be frequently surprised by how some things go far quicker than you imagined or were led to believe. Like Einstein said, when you're canoodling with your girlfriend, hours go by like seconds and when your pants are on fire, ten seconds can seem like ten hours.

So yes, there's waiting involved in this process. How much you wait depends somewhat on how on-the-ball you and your RIPA are, but largely on the unique circumstances surrounding your adoption and your luck.

Our personal waiting experience at various junctures in the process was as follows:

(*Note*: These were sequential events, each dependent on the previous step - no two steps could be done in parallel)

1. From submitting our documents to our EFAA to receiving our completed HSR: ~ 2 months (depends on how busy your EFAA is)

2. From registering with multiple RIPAs to our first being offered a child by a RIPA: ~ 1 week (unusually quick - I attribute this purely to luck)

3. From accepting the child to completion of our final adoption dossier: ~ 3 months (unusually long - we spent a long time waiting for our EFAA's license to be renewed by CARA)

4. From submission of our dossier to CARA to receiving our NOC: ~ 1 month (CARA claims they won't take more than 15 days)

5. From receiving the NOC to filing the adoption petition in court: ~ 2 weeks (depends on how busy and responsive your RIPA's lawyer is)

6. From filing the petition to our (one and only) adoption hearing: Just over 1 month (depends on the court calendar and the availability of the judge - mid-year and year-end holidays can stretch this)

7. From the court hearing to receiving the court order allowing the adoption: ~ 10 days (depends on how resourceful your lawyer is with the court clerks to expedite things)

8. Registration of adoption deed and getting our child's birth certificate: ~ 1 week (more or less predictable - involves local municipal bodies, so you may have to grease some palms here)

9. Getting our child's passport: ~ 10 days (more or less predictable)

Most RIPAs will tell you the waiting period for a child (item 2 above) is a minimum of 1 year and that there's a long queue of parents waiting. They will also tell you that as NRIs, you get 2nd priority after domestic parents - which is true in theory. In reality though, if the RIPA thinks they have a perfect match between you and a child, the queue counts for nothing. So don't be discouraged by tough talk from mean (but gold-hearted) social workers in your RIPA.

All in all, our entire journey - from first applying for an HSR to being back in our host country with our adopted child took exactly 1 year. We were lucky in being matched with a child very quickly. We were unlucky at other times - for instance, unfortunately, just as we began, our EFAA's license expired and the wait for our EFAA's license to be renewed by CARA seemed to take forever.

For what it is worth, the official timeline for inter-country adoptions is published on the CARA website. Take a look at it here. (but don't believe it)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

6) Fees & Expenses


Even before starting our adoption process, we were very firmly determined - as far as was possible - to do everything the proper, official, legally aboveboard way. Now at the end of the journey, I am glad to report that - with a single minor exception** - we did not have to pay anybody in Singapore or India anything more than the official adoption fees as set out by MCYS and CARA.

In general, if you are an NRI resident in Singapore, the fees you will encounter to adopt a child from India are as follows (correct as of April 2010 - the time of this writing):


1. Home Study Report performed by Touch Family Services, Singapore: Singapore Dollars 900 Only.

This fee is fixed by MCYS - the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore and is payable upon your engaging Touch in two instalments as follows:

a) Upon submission of documents: S$100 (non-refundable deposit)
b) At the office interview: S$800


2. Adoption Fees: United States Dollars 3500 Only.

This fee is fixed by CARA for inter-country adoptions and is payable by you to your RIPA in India only after the entire adoption process is complete, i.e. after the court order is received and the deed of adoption has been prepared for you by your RIPA's lawyer. Your RIPA may ask you to provide a USD cheque or a cheque for the equivalent amount in Indian rupees as per the prevailing exchange rate. Ensure you get a receipt.

*Note*: Do NOT pay anything more than this amount to anybody in your RIPA. You do not need a broker or an intermediary of any kind to deal with your RIPA. The agency's fees, the lawyer's fees - and every other kind of fees - are included in the CARA-prescribed amount of USD 3500. Even if you are well-off and/or feeling grateful/generous, do keep in mind that by offering any extra financial inducements, we are ultimately endangering the welfare of the thousands of children who are placed for adoption each year. If anybody in your RIPA or elsewhere offers to fast-track your adoption for a fee - for the sake of the children, please try not to give in to this.

Section 5.17 in the CARA Guidelines for Inter-Country Adoptions states:

5.17 Recovery of Costs in case of Inter-country Adoption


a) The organisation will pursue only non-profit objectives. Under no circumstances should it derive improper financial gain from any activity related to inter-country or in-country adoption. In inter-country adoption, an adoption fee of a fixed amount of US$3500 or its equivalent in Indian rupees will be payable by the adoptive parents to the Recognised Indian Placement Agencies through EFAA or a central authority. This fee will include the cost involved in providing quality child care, medical and legal services, passport, visa, payment towards professional staff, monitoring, correspondence, preparation of child study reports, medical reports, etc. This outer limit of recoverable expenses may be reviewed by CARA/Govt. of India once in a period of five years depending upon escalation of the expenses including cost of living. In case of disruption or failure of adoption, the cost of repatriating the child to India, will be borne by the Enlisted Foreign Adoption Agency, if no alternative placement for the child is effected in the foreigner's country with the concurrence of the Recognised Indian Placement Agency.


b) No donation shall be received by a Recognised Indian Placement Agency from a Foreign Prospective Adoptive Parent/Parents or Enlisted Foreign Adoption Agency. 


i) If it comes to CARA's notice that any RIPA charges more than the prescribed fees or tries to financially exploit the sponsoring agency/adoptive parents, CARA may after giving an opportunity to such agency to explain its position, suspend or withdraw its recognition as well as recommend criminal prosecution to the State Govt. as per law i.e. in terms of the principles of accountability of the person found defaulter. Similarly, if any Enlisted Foreign Adoption Agency induces a Recognized Adoption Placement Agency by giving offers of more money than the prescribed fees for processing a case of inter-country adoption of an Indian child, CARA may after giving an opportunity to such agency to explain its point of view, de-enlist the foreign agency along with recommendation to prosecute the defaulters as per law of that country.


ii) There should not be any agreement between Indian and Foreign Agencies on number of children to be offered for adoption to foreign families. Similarly, no such agreement on donations and fees will be entered between such Agencies.


3. Registration of Adoption Deed: Indian Rupees 550 Approximately.

You'll need to get the adoption deed franked (equivalent to putting it on a stamp paper) in a bank for Rs. 200. You'll also subsequently pay the city registrar a fee for registering the document - the final step that makes your adoption official. The exact amount for registration depends on the number of pages your deed + the court order have. We paid a total of Rs. 320 in Mumbai in Jan 2010.

*Note*: At least in Mumbai, the registration process is well-defined (though crazy in its own way) and happens within a single day. So there's no waiting period, and no need to pay a bribe.


4. Application for a new Birth Certificate: Indian Rupees 300 Approximately.

The Health Dept. of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation issued us with a birth certificate for our child with our names as parents. We ordered 10 copies of the birth certificate and in total, this cost us Rs. 260.

*Note*: On top of the official fees, I paid a bribe here (scroll to the bottom of this page for details). If you are not pressed for time, don't feel obliged to part with anything.


5. Application for an International Passport: Indian Rupees 600 Only.

If both the adoptive parents have passports (a reasonable assumption if you are NRIs), police verification is not required for application of a minor's passport.

This has a startling benefit that is not very well known - you don't need to pay Tatkaal fees even if you want the passport quickly. Provided all your documents are in order, the passport office will issue your child's passport on the 5th working day after receiving your application. If you pay Tatkaal fees of Rs. 1500 on top of the official minor's fees of Rs. 600, they are obliged to issue you with the passport on the same day! Admittedly rarely, but every once in a while, the service you encounter in India can be an unexpectedly pleasant surprise!


6. Post Placement / Follow-up Reports performed by Touch Family Services, Singapore:  Singapore Dollars 800 Only.

Upon your return to your host country, you are required to furnish regular post-placement reports in triplicate - one copy goes to CARA, one to the city civil court and one is retained by your RIPA. The reports must be prepared by your EFAA.

a) First Report: Singapore Dollars 300 Only.
b) Second Report: Singapore Dollars 200 Only.
c) Subsequent Reports: Singapore Dollars 150 Each.

You will need to send your RIPA at least 6-monthly reports for a period of 2 years, so in total, post-placement reports should set you back by SGD 800.


7. Other Expenses:

Apart from these official fees, we also encountered expenses for:
- Getting our medical reports prepared as per documentation requirements
- Getting our documents notarized and attested & couriering our dossier across to our RIPA in India. A notarial certificate in Singapore costs S$75, notarizing each page costs S$10. Notarization in India costs Rs. 100 per document. (2009 prices)
- Medical tests for our adoptive child
- Travel & accommodation in India during the adoption


** *Note*: The single exception was when I had to perforce offer an inducement (Rs. 600 for an officer + Rs. 200 for a typist) to get our child's birth certificate prepared in the extra short time that was left for us to return to Singapore. I regret having had to do even that, but the battle between your principles and the corrupt gentlemen in an Indian municipal office is an uneven one at the best of times. When you are pressed for time, it is pretty much a lost cause.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

7) Home Study Report by the EFAA in Singapore


We had our Home Study Report (HSR) prepared by Touch Community Services - the only EFAA recognized by CARA in Singapore.

First we had to fill in the agency's application form, get a medical test done, get 2 or 3 referral letters from people who knew us well (we got them from friends), obtain a certificate of no criminal conviction, obtain a certificate from the Institute of Mental Health attesting that neither of us had ever sought treatment there, and submit other supporting documentation. About a month after submitting our documents, we had one scheduled office interview with the social worker assigned to perform our HSR.

The office interview (approx. 3 hrs) was structured for the first hour as a joint session with the both of us and then as separate one-on-one sessions with my wife and with myself. The home visit was performed around 2 weeks after the office interview, when the social worker came to our home and had a look around to assess the appropriateness of the home and surroundings where our adopted child would eventually reside.


Application Form / Questionnaire:

The EFAA's application forms are extremely detailed with factual as well as subjective information to fill in and basically represent what the both of you say about yourself. If you are a couple, you will fill in these forms individually. Almost everything you say here may appear in your Home Study Report.

Factual information asked for includes personal biodata, health issues (if any), family members, questions about your employment, working hours, income, assets, liabilities, insurance etc.

Subjective information is in the form of detailed questionnaires on your background, your childhood, your relationships with your parents & siblings, your life experiences, your beliefs and attitudes, your strengths and weaknesses, your motivation and preparedness to adopt, your marital relationship, your impressions of the strengths and weaknesses of your spouse, your conflict resolution strategies, your experience in handling children (if any), etc.

The medical test was a basic one including blood and urine reports and a simple psychological evaluation by our GP. The blood report must include testing for HIV and Hepatitis B (also known as HBsAg or Australian Antigen).


Documentation Checklist:

You will be required to submit the following documentation during your application for the Home Study Report. All documents not in English will need to be translated.

*Note*: This list is accurate as of the time we submitted our HSR application in Feb 2009 - you will of course get the most up-to-date information when you apply to Touch for your HSR.

1) Self-affidavit stating that you do not, at present, have a foreign child under your care. ---> format provided by Touch
2) Application for Adoption Home Study Report, duly completed with passport-size photographs. ---> format provided by Touch
3) Personal History of male applicant, duly completed ---> format provided by Touch
4) Personal History of female applicant, duly completed ---> format provided by Touch
5) Service Agreement with Touch Community Services, duly signed
6) A family photograph (couple wishing to adopt + any existing children)
7) Copies of passports, NRICs, Employment Passes or Dependent Passes
8) Copies of Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Divorce Decrees, Death Certificates and all Children's Birth Certificates, as applicable
9) Copies of Highest Educational Certificates
10) Recent letter from employer stating your occupation, duration of employment and income. If you are self-employed, then a self-afffidavit stating the same
11) Copies of your most recent Income Tax Assessment forms, CPF Statements and Bank Statements
12) Copies of any documents showing investments in equity / mutual funds etc.
13) Copies of title deeds, mortgage statements showing investment / ownership of property.
14) Medical examination report performed within the last 6 months ---> format provided by Touch
15) If you have a major illness, a detailed medical report stating prognosis, medication, effects of the same and impact (if any) of the condition on your suitability as an adoptive parent.
16) Certificate of No Criminal Conviction for both parents ---> obtainable from the Criminal Records Office, Criminal Investigation Department, Police Cantonment Complex, Outram Park
17) Reference Letters --> Touch will contact your specified referees (at least 2) directly and request them to provide free-form reference letters covering certain points.

*Note*: You do not need to provide infertility certificates, any other proof of your inability to conceive biologically, or any other proof of efforts to conceive through fertility treatments, IVF, ICSI etc. Under Indian law, couples may apply to adopt regardless of whether they have biological children or not, regardless of their ability to conceive biologically or not.


Office Interview:

    At the office interview, we were asked about several of the things we had already filled in in our forms, but in more detail - your childhood, your relationships with your parents, siblings, grandparents; your marital relationship; your motivations and reasons to adopt; your own assessment of your suitability as parents; your attitudes towards disciplining children - e.g. do you approve of corporal punishment?, your attitudes towards adoption - e.g. will you reveal to your child that he is adopted, if so, at what age etc.

    We were asked about our jobs, how often we travelled, what we did for leisure (both as individuals and as a couple) etc.

    We were not asked intimate questions - e.g. sex life, infertility etc., but your experience may differ.

    Again almost everything you say in response to the social worker's questions may appear in your final HSR. It helps to be honest, frank and sincere throughout the process, while always maintaining a positive attitude to everything. Our social worker was friendly and immediately put us at ease by sharing her experiences and insights with us even as she conducted our interview.

      Home Visit:
      Your social worker will appraise your home for general cleanliness, hygiene and safety. E.g. if you live in a high-rise, do you have window grilles? Where will your child sleep? If you have pets, how do you handle safety/hygiene? She will also make notes about your immediate neighbourhood for cleanliness, facilities, safety.


      Home Study Report:

      We were issued with our completed Home Study Report in little over a week after the home visit. The HSR is valid for a period of 2 years and needs to be in your hands before any RIPA in India will take you seriously.

      The last paragraph of the HSR summarizes your suitability and preparedness to be adoptive parents as assessed by your social worker, and serves as a recommendation from your EFAA. Unless there are serious reasons to warrant concern, you can generally expect a favourable recommendation.

      Armed with our HSR, we set about creating our adoption dossier and planning our visit to India.

      What a typical Home Study Report (HSR) looks like


      *Note*: While submitting our final dossier, we were asked to provide a document called the Suitability Report. After some initial uncertainty as to what this document should contain and who we should obtain this from, we eventually requested Touch to issue this on their letterhead. See 'Suitability Report' under the section titled 'Documentation Samples' for further information.

      Tuesday, March 23, 2010

      8) Preparing the First Adoption Dossier (Before Matching)


      After being issued with our Home Study Report, we set about creating our adoption dossier as something we could approach RIPAs in India with. Our first adoption dossier contained the following documents:

      1. Copy of our Home Study Report performed by Touch Community Services, our EFAA
      2. Original joint photograph of the two of us on the Touch letterhead
      3. Copies of 4 reference letters written by our parents and friends
      4. Letter of Motivation for Adoption written and signed by the both of us
      5. Letter of Undertaking by MCYS - Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore (This was eventually required to be re-issued with the child's name; so in retrospect, we might as well have waited until after being matched, to request this document from the ministry)
      6. Copies of relevant pages of our passports
      7. Copy of our marriage certificate
      8. Copies of our birth certificates
      9. Copies of our Singapore NRICs
      10. Copies of our tertiary educational certificates
      11. Copies of our Certificate of No Criminal Conviction issued by the Criminal Records Office, Singapore
      12. Our medical examination reports and laboratory reports
      13. Letters from our employers certifying salary and duration of employment
      14. Copies of latest salary slips, Income Tax assessments, property deeds
      15. Copy of MCYS's accreditation to Touch Community Services

      We got the entire set stapled together with a cover page listing the component documents, each individually attested by a public notary and the entire set affixed with a notarial certificate. We then had the set attested/authenticated by the High Commission of India, Singapore.

      Later we came to know of several other documentation requirements, which we compiled and submitted as a second notarized dossier. In retrospect, we might have put together a plain un-notarized, un-attested set initially (since it is just for the RIPA's review, not for CARA or the courts), waited until the complete list of requirements was known, then compiled the whole lot into a single notarial set and saved ourselves a little amount of money on the notary's and embassy's fees.

      Monday, March 22, 2010

      9) Registering with one or more RIPAs in Mumbai


      *** UPDATE January 2012 ***
      As of January 2012, this procedure has now changed. You can no longer directly approach a RIPA. Please read the Changes Afoot section under 2012 for more details.


      While we were waiting for our Home Study Report to be issued in Singapore, we initiated contact with several RIPAs in Mumbai listed on the CARA website. Our personal experience was that most of these agencies tend to work very poorly over phone or e-mail. The social workers are often curt and brusque, telling you outright, "We have no children available. Try other agencies.", before abruptly hanging up on you.

      E-mailing your Home Study Report or other documents to an agency is often a non-starter - you'll get enough 'Mail size exceeded' and 'Mailbox limit exceeded' and 'No such recipient' bouncebacks to try the patience of a saint.

      In retrospect, it's a good exercise for one to call the agencies up and make the initial contact - it gets you started on something concrete, spurs you on to do some research on the various agencies, prepares you to develop a thick skin (if you have been living away from India for a long while, it can initially be somewhat of a shock how rude officials in India can be), and also helps you chart out your visit strategy when you eventually travel to India to meet them face-to-face. If you have parents living in the city where you intend to adopt, they could also do some legwork for you.

      But ultimately, no RIPA will do anything until you've got your HSR in hand. Plus, they are a lot more welcoming and polite when you show up at their door. Once we had our HSR, we mapped out a visit plan by location and hit 2 or 3 agencies every day.

      There are 2 schools of thought - one which advises you not to register with more than one RIPA in the same city ("they share the same database, they'll each ask you for the original HSR, it's not fair to anybody etc."). I subscribe to the latter, which is basically that in this process, you've got to grab the initiative and look out for your own interest - there's nothing wrong with it, and nobody else is going to do it for you.

      The fact of the matter is, where and when you get a child matched to you is largely a matter of luck and good timing; so registering with more than one RIPA expands your sphere of probability. No agency will promise to match you with a child soon - in fact all of them will tell you that you'll need to wait for at least 1 year. We had one agency telling us - "even domestic parents wait for 1 year; as NRIs, you must be prepared to wait for 1.5 or 2 years".

      Given this, I would rather register with 5 agencies and improve my chances of being matched with a child sooner than be a patient stupid Joe and put all my eggs in one RIPA's basket which - despite their best intentions - simply may not have children they can match you with for a long time. I do not believe they share databases - at least from what I could tell, most of their computer systems are more primitive than my home network. Of course, please let every agency know all your hopes rest with them alone, so that they take an active interest in your case.

      On the other hand, when you are eventually matched with a child, it is your duty to inform all the other agencies you have registered with, so they can take you off their lists.

      The registration process varies by RIPA. At some RIPAs, we were interviewed and then asked to fill in detailed questionnaires, similar to the one we filled in while applying for our HSR. At others, we simply gave them a copy of our HSR and our preliminary dossier and were told to expect a call back after their next board meeting.

      Sunday, March 21, 2010

      10) Getting Matched with a Child


      As NRIs, in theory, you have second priority after domestic couples when it comes to being matched with a child. As far as is possible, the RIPA will make an effort to match you with a child with similar physical characteristics.

      When a RIPA recommends a child to you, they give you a brief 2-page profile of the child including the child's vaccination and medical history, allow you to briefly view and interact with the child and give you time to go back and discuss it with your family. If you come back, interested in pursuing the match further, they usually allow you to take the child to a paediatrician of your choice for a simple medical / developmental milestones evaluation and perhaps a basic blood test.

      For most couples, this is an emotional time. If you have waited for a long time, seeing the child - that could potentially be yours for the rest of your lives - for the first time, will be one of the most exhilarating and exciting episodes in the entire journey - you will never forget this moment! But at the same time, you may also feel apprehensive, fearful and unsure of making what is after all a major, irreversible decision in your life. Non-judgemental support from your family is of great value at this time. Endless discussions do not help; clear, rational thinking and a firm no-turning-back policy based on the available information and a healthy gut instinct will help you make the go or no-go decision.

      Only when you've fully satisfied yourself that you are ready and willing to adopt the child, will your RIPA proceed with further action. When you have verbally confirmed your intention to proceed with the adoption, the RIPA snail-mails your EFAA a package consisting of the Child Study Report (documentation on the child as gathered and recorded by the RIPA over the period of the child's stay there, including medical history) and a list of the documents required for submission to CARA for the No Objection Certificate (NOC).

      At this stage, you prepare your final dossier to send across to your RIPA.

      Saturday, March 20, 2010

      11) Preparing the Second Adoption Dossier (After Matching)


      It is inherent in the process that you will only be able to produce several documents required for the CARA NOC (and for later filing in the civil court), after you have accepted the child matched to you. This is for the simple reason that many of the documents need to contain the name of the child. Hence we had an initial dossier and then a second one.

      Both dossiers were notarized by a public notary in Singapore and subsequently attested by the High Commission of India, Singapore. I presume our RIPA sent both dossiers across to CARA for the NOC and also later filed copies of both with the Mumbai civil court alongwith the adoption petition.

      The following documents made up our second dossier:

      1. Child Study Report including Physical Examination Report and Expenditure Statement for the child, with an acceptance statement on the last page signed by the both of us. (The report is sent to your EFAA by your RIPA after you have verbally accepted the child. You sign it, indicating formal acceptance of the child and return it alongwith your second dossier.)
      2. Certificate of Undertaking issued by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore. (Kindly re-issued by MCYS, this time with the child's name. We had earlier gotten a generic letter)
      3. In-Principle Approval to bring in a foreign child for purposes of adoption issued by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore.
      4. Updated medical report on both parents. (Our RIPA insisted we get fresh medical reports following their prescribed format. We had earlier submitted medical reports based on a format provided by Touch, our EFAA)
      5. Undertaking from Adoptive Parents signed by the both of us.
      6. Self-Affidavit on Child-Care Arrangements for our Adopted Child signed by the both of us.
      7. Declaration of Consent and Willingness of the Adoptive Father.
      8. Declaration and Consent and Willingness of the Adoptive Mother.
      9. Consent of Wife Letter signed by my wife.
      10. Power of Attorney granted by the both of us to a representative of our RIPA.
      11. Suitability Report issued by our EFAA.
      12. Our latest bank statements (We had inadvertently omitted to submit these earlier).
      13. Eventuality Letter signed by a younger relative and spouse.
      14. No Objection Certificate from High Commission of India, Singapore.
      15. Copy of CARA's renewed license for Touch Community Services to operate as an EFAA.

      Redacted versions of many of the above documents are available for viewing in the section titled 'Documentation Samples'.

      Friday, March 19, 2010

      12) Filing the Adoption Petition


      Immediately upon receipt of the NOC (No Objection Certificate) from CARA, your RIPA's lawyer can proceed to file an adoption petition in the city civil court.

      Though we adopted as a couple, for some reason that is not very clear to me, legally I (as the husband) was the sole petitioner named in the adoption petition filed under HAMA. Since I could not be physically present in India at the time of filing the petition, I had to grant my wife power-of-attorney to sign the petition on my behalf.

      *Note*: I had earlier granted Power-of-Attorney to a representative of our RIPA, so I suspect they could equally have filed the petition on my behalf. As far as the legal requirement goes, the parents (both) only need to be physically present during the actual court hearing. However our RIPA insisted that either one of us had to also be present at the time of filing the petition. This worked out great for us, because my wife was able to get temporary custody (see section on 'Pre-Adoption Foster Care') of our child immediately after filing the adoption petition.

      The Power-of-Attorney document has to be typed on plain paper and attested by the High Commission/Embassy of India in your host country. No witnesses are required. The High Commission will usually place a stamp across your photo on the last page. I did not get the POA notarized by a public notary prior to attestation.

      *) Power-of-Attorney Granted to Wife:






































      The adoption petition was duly signed by my wife and filed along with the POA and other supporting documents (CARA NOC, copies of our identity documents, our dossiers, documents pertaining to release of the child for adoption etc.) in the Mumbai Civil and Sessions Court at Fort. Somebody from the RIPA's law firm will usually accompany you to the courts to do this.

      Now the wait begins for the court clerk to assign a hearing date for the adoption. Your RIPA's lawyer will let you know when he hears from the court. If you are adopting as a married couple, both of you must be physically present for the court hearing.

      Thursday, March 18, 2010

      13) Pre-Adoption Foster Care


      Our final, complete dossier was sent by our RIPA in Mumbai to CARA in Delhi in late Oct 2009. Just over 1 month later, our RIPA received the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from CARA. This cleared the way for our RIPA's lawyer to file an adoption petition in the Mumbai Civil & Sessions Court.

      After filing the adoption petition in court, your RIPA is free to hand the child over to you under what is called a pre-adoption foster care agreement. At least one of the adoptive parents must be present to take custody of the child. They are likely to impose conditions on you such as the child is not to be taken out of the city, and they may reserve the right to visit you and the child at your home / temporary residence at any time. In our case, the custody agreement forbade us from taking the child out of Mumbai. Since my wife's maternal home is in Mumbai, we had no issues with this.

      Pre-adoption foster care is an excellent arrangement that helps you spend time bonding with and getting to know your child better while you are waiting for the court hearing, which can take a few weeks, depending on the court calendar, and how resourceful your RIPA's lawyer is to get the earliest possible hearing date.

      Wednesday, March 17, 2010

      14) Adoption Petition Hearing


      Our adoption petition was filed in December. As it transpired, year-end holidays and judges / court officials clearing their leave contributed to our getting a hearing date more than 1 month later. We were asked to be present outside Rm. No. 36, 3rd Floor, Mumbai Civil & Sessions Court (Fort) alongwith our child, who by then had already been placed in our custody for a month.

      If you are adopting as a married couple, both parents are required to be present for the hearing. I have heard that in some cases, there may be more than one hearing. In our case, fortunately for us, there was just the one. Our lawyer met us outside the courtroom, where - having arrived early, we had spent the better part of 2 hours waiting, idly looking at the dockets of bail cases up for hearing, introducing our child to the pigeons in the courtyard and taking surreptitious photos of the place for our albums.

      When the judge arrived, everyone bowed and scraped and outdid one another in obsequiousness. The actual hearing itself took a little over 5 minutes. The judge asked us a few questions - our birth dates, the date of our marriage, our income. He expressed surprise that we were adopting though (in his estimation) we were relatively young. As though adoption always ought to be the last option. Anyway, our lawyer deftly handled that with a smooth, oily response and he let it go.

      The judge then asked us what we would be investing in the name of the child. We suggested an education endowment policy - he asked us for the quantum and asked someone to convert that to Indian rupees for him. He then instructed us to purchase the policy within 3 months of returning to Singapore with our adopted child and forward the receipt on to the court via our lawyer. We agreed, our lawyer entreated him to expedite the court order, he waved in acknowledgement and that was it.

      The court order granting the adoption arrived (in quadruplicate) 10 days later. This cleared the way for our RIPA's lawyer to prepare the Deed of Adoption.

      *) The court room where our adoption petition was heard:

      Tuesday, March 16, 2010

      15) What the Court Order granting adoption looks like


      The court order granting our adoption was a 5-page long document and was issued in quadruplicate. Our child's photograph was affixed to the last page.








































      In the court order, the judge will usually instruct you to register a Deed of Adoption within 30 days. Our RIPA's lawyer prepared the Deed of Adoption, stapled one copy of the court order to it and handed it to me to get it executed and registered at the city registrar's office.

      Monday, March 15, 2010

      16) What the Deed of Adoption looks like

             

      The Deed of Adoption prepared by our RIPA's lawyer was a 3-page long document as shown below. When you execute your deed of adoption in the city registrar's office, the adoption is official and complete.

      *Important*: Do not fill in the date or sign the document when it is first given to you by your RIPA's lawyer. You need to sign the deed only while executing it at the registrar's office in front of 2 witnesses.

      You need to pay the Honourable Govt. of India stamp duty on the deed before you take it to the registrar's office. The large blank space at the top of the first page was left by the lawyer for me to be able to affix a Rs. 200 non-judicial stamp or a franking receipt. See the section titled 'Franking the Adoption Deed' for more on this.




































      Sunday, March 14, 2010

      17) Franking the Deed of Adoption


      If your RIPA's lawyer acts quickly, he can prepare the Deed of Adoption for you immediately after he receives a copy of the Court Order allowing the adoption.

      To complete the adoption and make it official, you now need to execute and register the Deed of Adoption with the city registrar. Prior to doing this, you need to pay stamp duty for the document. If your lawyer has already prepared the Deed of Adoption on a Rs. 200 non-judicial stamp paper, then you have nothing to do.

      Usually though, he would have simply typed it out on plain white/green paper and left a big empty space at the top of the first page for you to affix a Rs. 200 stamp. After the Telgi stamp paper scandal, most banks are not authorized to sell non-judicial stamps anymore and the easier option is to get your document franked instead.

      Franking an already typed document on plain paper is equivalent to typing out the document on stamp paper. You fill in a franking deposit slip at the bank, pay the stamp duty and the officer uses a franking machine to print out the stamp denomination on the document. Again not all banks and branches provide a franking facility - branches of co-operative banks usually do - call them up ahead to check. I got my Deed of Adoption franked for Rs. 200 (+ Rs. 10 service charge) at the Kapol Cooperative Bank in Ghatkopar.

      *Important*: Please retain your copy of the Franking Deposit Slip (basically the receipt you get from the bank). You will need to paste this into the blank space that your lawyer has hopefully left for you at the top of the first page of the Deed. The registrar's office will not accept the deed for execution if you don't have the franking receipt.

      *) What the franked cover page of the Deed of Adoption looks like:

      * Click on the image to enlarge

      Saturday, March 13, 2010

      18) Executing & Registering the Deed of Adoption


      Having franked the Deed of Adoption for Rs. 200 stamp duty, the next step is to execute and register the deed at the city registrar's office.

      The Joint Sub-Registrar of Assurances has several offices in Mumbai. If you have specified a temporary residence address in Mumbai while filing the adoption petition, you have to get the deed registered in the office that covers the geographical location that your temporary address in Mumbai falls under. The complete list of sub-registrar offices in Mumbai is available online here. We registered our deed at the Kurla 1 & 2 office in Chembur.

      It took me a couple of visits to the dank, dingy office in Chembur to figure out how the whole thing works.

      - Dozens of deed registrations are carried out every day - most are property related transactions. Yours is  likely to be the only adoption deed on any given day.

      - Execution of the deed involves both parties (buyer & seller), and 2 witnesses, all of whom are required to be physically present on the appointed day at a pre-specified time to sign the documents and have their thumb-impressions taken.

      *) Getting an Appointment Token:

      - To get an appointment for the registration, in the past you had to travel to the registrar's office to get a token. Apparently this led to the usual proliferation of agents and the inevitable granting of tokens in exchange for 'chaha-paaNi'. To weed this practice out, the good folks at the Department of Registration and Stamps instituted a few hotline numbers. You can only get an appointment token by calling one of these numbers between 9.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. and giving them your particulars.

      - Tokens are always only given out for the next working day, never earlier than that. If you call during the specified time and manage to get through, you are given a registration appointment for the following day. They allocate roughly one appointment per half-hour with a break for lunch, so it's pretty much a mad first-come-first-serve rush.

       - Well-intentioned it may be, but the system works terribly in practice. You are basically consigned to calling a number that's always engaged. After two attempts on two consecutive days, I fancied my chances of winning the Maharashtra State Lottery were a notch higher than getting through to the 'hotline'.
      Allocate a few days for this frustrating exercise.

      - Or you can do what I did - which was to give up, go down physically and beg and grovel before the officer-in-charge until she condescended to allocate me a token for the next day. Fortunately in India, you can sometimes get things done by appealing to the sentimentality in people - and I wore my best pathetic-dog look and delivered my best help-us-we're-doing-a-good-deed-unlike-all-these-property-transaction-people pitch to snare the damn token. (For the record, I did not pay a bribe).

      - The scene at the registrar's office was mayhem. When I was there, I realized why I had a snowflake's chance in Hell of getting through to the hotline. Picture this - about fifty people crowded around the token lady's counter, all clutching mobile phones and desperately dialing the hotline. The token lady picks up the phone when it rings, gets the lucky caller's particulars and assigns him a token while 5000 other people district-wide frantically hit the redial button on their phones.

      Never mind that the 50 despos in the room are inches away from the token lady's face - they are still not allowed to get a token from her unless they get through to the phone on her desk. I was treated to the surreal spectacle of one bloke who actually got through to the hotline while standing there. Witnessing the token lady answer his call right in front of his eyes, he decided it was fine to simply talk to the lady face-to-face, but instead earned himself a sharp reprimand to give her his particulars by talking into his cell-phone. ('mala saangu naka, phone madhe saanga!' for those of you who understand Marathi).

      *Update*: Apparently you can now apply for the appointment token online if you want a slot for the day-after-tomorrow or later. Click 'eStepin' --> 'Token Booking'. The system looks pretty good - you can actually view the parties involved in each transaction when you click on any of the slots. If any of you try this out for real for your adoption registration, please let me know how it worked out for you and I'll update this section.

      *) The Actual Execution & Registration of the Deed of Adoption:


      Once you've got an appointment to register your deed, the rest of it is actually straightforward.

      Unlike a property transaction which has 2 parties - the buyer/recipient and seller/giver, ('lihun gheNaare' and 'lihun deNaare' in Marathi), you are the sole party executing the adoption deed. Remember to emphasize this while getting a token. I had an official initially insist that there had to be a representative of the RIPA present as the 'giver' until I pointed out that the Deed of Adoption had only my name in it and nobody else's. Essentially, you are giving the child to yourself in adoption.

      At the appointed time, you need to be present at the registrar's office with:
      1. The completed application form. (you can purchase the form for Rs. 5 at any of the photocopier stalls lining the entrance to the registrar's office)
      2. The original franked Deed of Adoption, stapled alongwith the Court Order.
      3. One photocopy of the Deed & Court Order taken on one-sided paper only. The photocopy does need not be certified or notarized. 
      4. Two witnesses with their photo-ID cards (PAN card / Driving License / Passport / Voter ID) - original + 1 copy, proof of address - original + 1 copy, and a passport-sized photo each.
      5. Two passport-sized photos of yourself.
      *Important*: You need to insert butter paper between every two pages of the photocopied deed+court order. If you miss this detail out, they'll send you out to get it, so remember to get the photocopying chap to do this for you. They need this to prevent typed pages from adhering together as the ink deteriorates over long periods of storage.

      *Note*: You do not need to bring the child along during registration.

      *Note*: Just to make your life a little more difficult, the entire application form is in Marathi and contains obscure vernacular terms like 'duyyam nibandhak' (joint sub-registrar) and 'sobat zodleli kagadpatre' (supporting documents). For a casual speaker of Marathi like me, the form was way too complex to decipher and the officials at the counter are either too busy or can't be bothered to help you out. Fortunately, we ran into a busybody, who watching our predicament, offered to help. Being a regular there (agent), he seemed to know his way around pretty well and had our form filled in no time. Most of the sections in the form apply to property/land transactions anyway and can be left blank for adoption deed ('dattakpatra') applications.

      *) What our filled application form (3 pages) looked like:

      * Click on the image to enlarge










      * Click on the image to enlarge











      * Click on the image to enlarge





      The registration takes about half an hour - your photo and thumbprint are optically scanned into the computer, you and your witnesses sign the deed, the officer puts the registrar's seal and affixes a unique numbering block on each page of the deed and court order and a few supplementary pages containing details of the applicant and witnesses, copies of IDs, photos and signatures etc., and you pay the registration fee. You can collect the registered deed later the same day.

      *) Cover page of the Deed of Adoption bearing the registrar's seal and unique number block:

      * Click on the image to enlarge



      Congratulations! Your adoption is now official and complete!

      Friday, March 12, 2010

      19) Getting a Birth Certificate Listing us as Parents


      After you have the registered adoption deed in hand, you can proceed to apply to the city municipality for a birth certificate that contains your child's new name (if you have chosen one), and lists you as parents of your child.

      In Mumbai, the Health Department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is the body responsible for issuing birth certificates. Theoretically you are supposed to be able to apply for a BC online via the MCGM website, but in reality (at least at the time of this writing in April 2010), that page displays you a nice little error message asking you to go down to the ward office in person.

      *Important*: If you know the administrative ward of the hospital in which your adopted child was born (you can usually get this information from your RIPA), you'll need to make a trip to the municipal office in that ward to apply for the birth certificate. Wards in Mumbai are lettered - 'A', 'B', 'N' etc. A list of all the wards in Mumbai is available on Wikipedia. To know where your ward office is, use JustDial.com to search for 'BMC X Ward Office'. (You would think this basic information would be available on the MCGM website, but you would be wrong). You can also call JustDial in Mumbai at 2-888-8888 and they will SMS the address of any place to you free of charge.

      At the Health Department in the ward office, you usually have to first submit a handwritten letter as follows - alongwith a copy of the registered adoption deed and court order notarized by a public notary:

      *) Handwritten Application Letter:









































      Subsequently, (in my case the following day - after applying some palm-grease), the officer-in-charge will have you fill in an application form as shown below. You can request for multiple copies of the birth certificate - all originals. He then enters the particulars of the child and your names by hand into a giant ledger and makes you sign the ledger - this becomes the official birth record.

      *) Mumbai Municipality's Application Form for Issue of Birth Certificate (multiple copies):








      The details are then entered into the municipality's computer system for the printing of the birth certificate. Once the birth certificate is printed, it is signed by the Chief / Assistant Medical Officer and stamped as shown below before being issued to you.

      Thursday, March 11, 2010

      20) Applying for a Passport for our Adopted Child



      You can apply for your child's passport in the RPO closest to where you have some form of proof of address in India. (yes I know how ironic that sounds for an NRI). We applied for and got our kid's passport issued in Kerala.


      *) Forms to be submitted:

      1. Main Application Form 1: http://passport.gov.in/cpv/ppapp1.pdf

      2. Annexure 'H' - Declaration of Applicant Parent for Minor's Passport - typed on plain paper and signed by both parents: http://passport.gov.in/cpv/ANNEXUREH_minor.htm


      *) Supporting documents we used for the application:

      1. Copy of the Adoption Order from the Mumbai Civil & Sessions Court

      2. Copy of the Registered Adoption Deed

      3. Proof of DOB for Minor Applicant: Attested copy of our child's Birth Certificate issued by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation listing us as parents. (Note: Birth Certificate is a MANDATORY document for issue of minor passport)

      4. Proof of Address of Father: Ration Card with address listing my name & a Bank passbook with address listing my name (you can also use any of several other documents - passport, PAN card, voter ID, driving license etc. Incidentally, I couldn't use my passport as proof of residence address because it was issued elsewhere. The documents you can use for proof of address are listed in Item 54 in Table 3 in this document)

      5. Attested copies of both parents' passports. If your spouse's name is not endorsed on your passport, you'll need to get this done prior.

      6. Specimen thumb prints of both thumbs of the child on a plain sheet of paper. (this was required because the thumb print on the application form got smudged and couldn't be scanned)

      7. Two passport-sized photos of our child.

      *Note*: 
      The official list of documents to be submitted for passport applications for children adopted by foreign parents also includes the NOC from CARA and the guarantee executed before the court, (see Table 2 here), but these are not required for Indian parents and we were not asked to submit them.


      *) Some other useful observations:


      a) You don't need to fill in the Personal Particulars form - it is not required for a minor's passport application, because there is no police verification carried out.

      b) This also means the passport can be issued faster - the Malappuram office promised to dispatch our child's passport on the 4th working day after application for the normal non-Tatkaal fee. To our incredulity, the RPO actually said he would issue the very same day for Tatkaal (!!), but we could wait, so we did.

      c) You don't need to take your child along to the passport office (which anywhere in India is always a zoo), but if you do, you'll be allowed to jump to the head of the queue by sympathetic ushers.

      d) Minor passports in India are issued for 5 years only.

      e) A common doubt regarding the applicant's signature in Form 1 is answered on the Passport Office website's FAQ:

      Q: On my child's passport application, it asks for my child's signature in the box below the box for photograph; my child is a new born, so should I sign in the box?

      A: In case of minors, the signature/thumb impression box below the box for photograph should contain the minor’s signature or thumb impression as the case may be. Minor’s parents should NOT put their signature or thumb impression in this box. The signature/thumb impression box given at the end of the application form should contain signature or thumb impression of either parent/guardian as the case may be. In the given case, if the minor cannot sign, thumb impression of the minor should be put in the box.

        f) Detailed instructions for filling in the passport application form are available at the Passport Office website www.passportindia.gov.in.