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[Baby Love: The Internet can help you adopt a child]
    Anita Bora


The process of adoption is usually a long, difficult, and often traumatic one.

Prospective parents are discouraged by the lack of family and community support, and relevant information that can help. Bigger hurdles - finding a good agency and counsellor, paper work and legalities involved (especially in case of international adoptions) are daunting. This is where the Internet has brought about, if not a revolution, a sea change.

When Priya and Rajesh decided to adopt a daughter ten years ago, despite having one biological child, there was little support they received from their parents or community. Information was scarce and they had no one to turn to.

"Perhaps it would have been easier if we had made the decision today," says Priya, "with more awareness about adoption. Information over the Internet is easily available on this topic, as is much needed support from communities of people who are going through the same process."

So, can the Net really help in simplifying the adoption process and making it easier?

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"Absolutely,'" says Amelia Tummalapalli, who adopted a baby boy from Kerala in 1997 and who also runs the Indians Adopting Indian Children (I.A.I.C.) web site. "When we began to research adoption in 1996, the Internet was just becoming accessible at home. We would need to read hundreds of books, consult with attorneys, make long distance calls, and still not manage gathering information we needed to make the best decision about our child's adoption."

The IAIC web site also has a mailing list where members learn from each other's experiences. Most families send messages to the mailing list. These could be about choosing an orphanage to work with, experiences about their journey to pick up their child, and their feelings as they prepare to be parents.

Find a mailing list and support group

Tummalapalli's advice to prospective parents is to find a mailing list or support group: "The topic of adoption is usually a common thread. It helped us to know that many other families had adopted before we had, and that we were moving in a very positive direction by building our family through adoption. If we didn't have the support of the I.A.I.C. mailing list, we would have felt quite alone on this journey."

There are many adoption agencies that also have a web presence, making it easier for parents to do their research. Beth Peterson Krueger, an adoption professional with India Adoption Resources agrees that there is quite a lot of information on adoption, but adds: "I think that, often, prospective adoptive families may feel there is too much information. They must exercise caution, as one cannot determine the reputation of an agency by the fact that they may have a web site. You will still need to do your homework."

Adoption Agencies
 
Dillon Adoption
- Places children in adoptive homes in the US from other countries including India.
Special Additions Inc.
- Licenced, non-profit, adoption agency placing waiting children all over the world.
CARA
- Central Adoptive Resource Agency, has resources for both local and foreign placement agencies.
Adoption.com
- Countrywise listing of adoption agencies and other related information
 
Work with a good adoption agency

For prospective parents looking at adopting Indian children, Tummalapalli recommends visiting CARA (an Indian clearing house for adoption) to find regulated orphanages fully licensed for adoption placement. Any information found on the Internet should be thoroughly checked in order to make sure that the agency is a genuine one.

On international adoption, Krueger says: "All agencies will have a few families that have not been satisfied as international adoption can be a very frustrating process, but you can minimise your risks by researching and choosing an agency that has a sound reputation."

Prepare for the arrival of the child

Dealing with the waiting period can be a frustrating experience, according to Tummalapalli, and one should be prepared for it: "Not all orphanages have fast processing times. Typically the north (India) is faster, and the south is slower. Don't go with an agency that promises something that sounds too good to be true. Work with professional adoption workers."

The messages posted on adoption support web sites like adoption.com gives a fair inkling of the quandary adoptive parents go through, before and during adoption. Bonding with people who are going through the problems is therefore of prime importance. Not only during the adoption process but also during the growing up years. Many prospective parents avail of a homestudy program, usually provided by the adoption agency, that prepares parents for the new family addition. Staying in touch with other adoptive families via the Internet is advised, as many feel a strong sense of connection with one another, according to Krueger.

  Steps that will make the adoption process easier  
 
- Counsel with genuine Adoption Agencies
- Discuss feelings with other adoptive parents through mailing lists/ bulletin boards
- Subscribing to an online adoption bulletin/ publication
- Organise to meet other parents who have adopted children
- Read books and visit web sites on adoption related issues

 
Children with special needs

Just like you cannot return a biological baby to its womb; once adopted, a child cannot be returned to the adoption agency or orphanage. "Our social worker prepared us by saying that we must go into the adoption knowing that we have no control of the outcome," states Tummalapalli, who went through the heart wrenching experience of finding out that her adoptive child had a congenital cataract in his left eye when he was 18 months old.

Knowing this, adoptive parents need to be prepared and dedicated to love, nurture and raise a child with special needs regardless of the outcome. "We became his advocates and carried him to many doctors' appointments until we found someone who could do a paediatric cataract removal and prosthetic lens implant. Today, he sees with both eyes because we did not give up on him," says Tummalapalli.

Are people adopting?

According to statistics available, the number of people opting for adoption has increased over the years. Though there are no exact figures, some US related statistics compiled by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute are available. Statistics and other related studies on adoption can be downloaded in a PDF format on the Future of Children web site. The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse also contains statistical data and information related to adoption.

Krueger who is also the Indian program coordinator of Special Additions Inc. says that she personally receives 10-20 queries from the SAI web site. These are usually from prospective adoptive families about 'how to start an adoption' and 'how to choose a good agency'. After the initial enquiry, Krueger usually sends families to ICHILD to do so some research and gather information.

"Sometimes I talk with them on the phone or email about possibilities or suggest agencies that might work for a particular situation (older children, NRI or special needs). I would say most families go on to complete a successful adoption," observes Krueger and adds that for SAI at least, 60 percent of adoptive families are of Indian heritage, while the other 40 percent are adopting babies with special needs, or older children.

Tummalapalli has also noticed a positive trend in Indian families adopting from India in the last 5 years, with most families she comes in contact with in the US, either looking for agencies in the US and India, or hoping to proceed with an independent adoption. "Also, Indians living in India are seeking support and advice while they pursue adoption at home," she remarks.

Although adoption is a long process, it is also an extremely rewarding one. "Everyone wins with adoption," says Tummalapalli, "The child becomes the son or daughter and gains loving parents, and parents have a child to call their own. That is what parenting is all about!"

Priya's contented face as she watches both her daughters playing together is ample proof of that statement.
Additional Resources
- Indian Adoption Laws
- Guidelines on Adoption by US Nationals and Green card holders
- Documents Required for Inter Country Adoption
- International Adoption Statistics
- Prospective adoptive parents and birthmothers
- Adopting in India
- Adopting in the US
- Issues Facing Adoptees

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