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Foster Care & Adoption

Adoption has always been on my mind growing up.Even though its still not a very common practice in India, I always thought of adopting a child even if I had my own. It is  an opportunity to care for someone and give them a home. As a Christian is also helps me understand how I am adopted as a child in Christ. Hoping that some day I would be able to do it.

What made me write about adoption,  was an  article in the Indian Express on Sunday, about how foster homes are being introduced in India. It is still a very new concept and people are yet to be open to it. I really hope that the government would work on these policies and the general public would be educated more on these issues. Below is the link to article and the write up itself.

Before the Baby Goes Home

Six-month-old Anjali’s cry pierces through the usually quiet Rohokole flat in Mumbai’s upscale western suburb Vile Parle. Gitanjali Rohokole, 42, rushes to check on the baby as does her 11-year-old daughter Tarada. Her husband, Sunil, is heating milk in the kitchen for the baby. Anjali, they say, has brought the family together — weaned away Sunil from his business news channels, and the children from their rooms to the drawing room where she lies kicking her tiny feet in the air.

But Anjali is only their guest for a few months. Her profile is up on Central Adoption Resource Agency’s website, one click way from adoption. She was a destitute, found by the police and cared for two months in a hospital until NGO Family Service Centre found a prospective foster carer in Gitanjali. It took one year for her to convince her husband, a private equity investor, 18-year-old son Shivraj, and Tarada to become a foster family. “They said let’s just adopt a puppy. But I wanted to give these homeless kids love and a family atmosphere,” says Gitanjali.

The Rohokoles are among very few well-off Indians opting to do foster care. “Foster? Is that like adoption?… It’s the usual response I get,” Gitanjali says.

In 1971, the Family Service Centre in Mumbai became the first to place children in foster homes in India. Current employees are not sure but they claim Jenny Talwalkar, a trustee with the organisation, was perhaps the first woman to become a foster mother in the country.

Forty-five years later, on June 7, the Ministry of Women and Child Development drafted its Model Guidelines for Foster Care, 2016, to lay down a revised procedure for group foster care. These guidelines, along with Regulations for Adoption 2016, which looks into pre-adoption foster care under the Juvenile Justice Act, hopes to encourage more people to opt for foster care in India.

Explains Amol Shinde, programme manager for Maharashtra’s State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA), “There are two kinds of foster care, one where children are placed in pre-adoptive care before they get legally adopted. And the second category is of children who cannot get adopted due to physical or mental disability and need to be looked after until they turn 18.”

Programme officer with the NGO, Avanti More, says that more clarity is still needed on foster care. Surprisingly, even today several Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) are not aware about foster care and its provisions. Central government’s guidelines and training sessions will help equip Child Welfare officers about procedure of foster care, help them bring in more NGOs into the process.

A survey by Bangalore-based NGO Bosco found only 30 organisations that place kids in foster care in all of India. Kerala has 14, Maharashtra has eight. “Awareness is low. In Bangalore, we visited anganwadis to take help from ASHA workers to find prospective parents and counsel them. It is still the middle and lower income group that is willing to become a foster family,” says counselor Bakya Lakshmi T.

“The new guidelines will help the CWC in several states understand how to go about foster care. Until now, only some forward thinking CWC were able to permit foster care,” says Ian Anand, who set up Center of Excellence in Alternative Care of Children in New Delhi in 2011. An adopted child himself, he was abandoned in Kolkata as a newborn and later adopted by a US-based couple. “I returned to give back something to the country in which I was born,” he says.

According to him, only Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan have succeeded in drafting some basic guidelines for foster care for their respective states. “Fostering is a brand new concept in India. There is a big difference between how Western and Indian families work in foster care. In the West, foster parents are licensed,” he says. In India, it is the NGOs that shortlist and register foster families after through assessment. The CWC plays no direct role. “What we need is systematisation of licensing, foster care procedures and counseling of parents and children,” says Anand.

Sunita Dalvi, 47, lives in a cluttered colony in Vakola, Mumbai. Since the last five years, she has depended on foster care to run her home. Her husband abandoned her a decade ago. Now, her daughter and son help her run the house through a sales job. In her one room-kitchen enclosure, two-year-old Diya runs around, chased by one-year-old Sanskar. Her house has one cupboard — one half is used by Dalvi, her son and daughter, while the other half is utilised to keep toys and clothes for the foster children.

“I was previously a domestic help. One day, I fell and injured my thigh. After that accident, I was home-bound for several months and my neighbour suggested I could do foster care to earn. I started doing this for money, but now I don’t want to work at anything else. It is god’s service to look after homeless children,” Dalvi says. She has looked after 25 foster babies, changing her sleeping pattern every few months when a new baby comes. She earns Rs 4,000 for one baby per month.

Diya has been living with her the longest — two years. “When she gets adopted, I will be heartbroken. It is not easy to forget children once they consume all your time,” Dalvi says, her eyes welling up.

With limited resources, she arranges for the best for the children in her care, although the NGO reimburses all expenses for the children. The tiny room is cluttered with a bicycle and toys and neighbouring children are always pouring in to play.

Dalvi’s house stands in contrast to the opulent Lodha towers, 10 km away, where corporate interior designer Anisha Johari lives. Johari has looked after five foster children in the last two years with help from two full-time maids. “I came to know about foster care when I adopted my daughter Shivika. She had lived with a family before adoption for three months,”says Johari.

Two years ago, she brought in the first child, a month-old, who had been in institutional care. In the next four months, with better hygiene, medical care and personal touch, the baby grew perceptively. “When she was adopted, her weight had increased. She was a happier child,” she recollects.

Husband Rahul Johari, a banker, and her two children, specially Shivika, now 7-year-old, are in love with babies and eager to continue this practice. The Joharis are soon shifting to Kolkata and have already started research on foster care in the city.

There is a crater left behind every time a baby is adopted. “It is difficult to let go of our selfish need to keep the baby. When the first baby was adopted, our entire family was sad for days,” Johari says. Last year, a baby, who had a dusky complexion, was rejected by an adopting couple. “I felt as if they have declined a marriage proposal for my daughter. I could not sleep for days,” she says.

The handful of NGOs working to place children under foster care is looking for couples like the Joharis to counsel. “Emotional needs of children cannot be sustained by institutional caretakers where 10 children are looked after by one person. Foster parents can provide a home to children and make the transition into an adoptive home easier,” says Najma Goriawala, consultant with Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption (IAPA). IAPA has 12 registered foster parents.

Likewise, the Udaipur-based Foster Care India has currently four families registered who will take care of children until they are 18. “We have multiple awareness strategies. We put out advertisements in papers and radio, sent out mass messages and counselled families through references. But we mostly have only middle income groups willing to opt for foster care. We are trying to bring in well-off people as well,” said counselor Bhagyashri Bhandakar.

In the last year, Johari has been able to convince another resident in her building to become a foster carer. Shalini Gupta, 43, looked after nine-week-old Aarohi for two months before her adoption in March this year. Previously, a teacher, Shalini is now a housewife. While her elder son studies abroad, the second one lives in a boarding school. “I could never stop being a mother. My husband and my parents were dead against adoption. Having no kids around made me sad,” she says. For the prosperous Guptas, foster care gave them a chance to have a child around once more, even if it was for a brief period.

Aarohi had come with a bottle of milk and the pair of clothes that she was in. Shalini went shopping, getting her clothes, toys and blankets. “Everyone in my tower started recognising me as Aarohi’s mother. The maids and watchmen always came out to help,” she says. While Aarohi’s departure depressed her briefly, the 43-year-old has decided to continue foster care, a symbiotic relationship where she will give a child a home, and the child will bring her happiness.

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Boundless Post: Relationships

AUG 29, 2016 |ADAM MARSHALL
A man and woman looking over a map

Deep and meaningful romantic attachment is the product, not the catalyst, of a loving relationship.

My favorite love poem hardly reads like a love poem at all. In Seamus Heaney’s “Scaffolding,” the late Irish poet compares the marriage he shares with his wife Marie not to a rose or a Spring or birdsong but to the scaffolding that masons erect when starting construction on a building.

Masons, Heaney writes, “Are careful to test out the scaffolding; / Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points, / Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints;” — work that’s not spent on the edifice itself but supports the greater work to come. Their care only pays off “when the job’s done,” when “all this comes down” to reveal “walls of sure and solid stone.” Such, he implies, is love: if you put in the hard work, lover and beloved can “let the scaffolds fall / Confident that we have built our wall.”

I love much about this poem — its solidness, its succinctness, its simple, workmanlike clarity. Most of all though, I love how utterly unromantic it is. In five crisp couplets, Heaney reminds us that love — and marriage especially — isn’t mysticism. It’s not guesswork. It definitely has nothing to do with stars aligning. No, love is labor, and like any good work it takes a long time to build.

Not that I’ve always thought of love that way, mind you. Growing up, I (like most of us) drank deeply from the well of what I call the “Romance Myth.”

The myth goes something like this: Somewhere out there, there’s a One for you. That One is amazing — so amazing, in fact, that when you meet them your mutual One-ness will manifest itself in an instantaneous and unmistakable connection, something akin to what we call “chemistry.” Your pupils will dilate. Your heart will beat faster. If you’re lucky, you’ll kiss (maybe). It will be magical. You will be smitten — and as you and your One enjoy your One-ness together, you’ll realize what you’d really known all along: You’ve fallen head-over-heels, over-the-moon-for-life in love.

It’s a charming story. But if the realities of love and marriage are any indicator, I suspect it’s also a pack of half-truths and outright lies.

My Unromantic Love Story

My own love story unfolded very differently. Throughout high school and the first year of college, I was resolute in my determination to find my One. I knew God wanted me to find her, and since all I had to go on was a weird mixture of Christian divination and pop psychology gobbledygook, I looked for signs and chased “chemistry” like my life depended on it. I had a series of relationships, each of which started off with fireworks but quickly fizzled. And when they ended, they ended badly, leaving me unable to reconcile the pain of my disappointment with the assurance of God’s care for me. If God really loved me, why would He mislead me? Why would He let me feel the thrumming of One-ness in my heart, only to tear it away?

It also was during my freshman year of college when I met Brittany, the woman whom I would eventually marry. At the time no two words were more distant in my mind than “Brittany” and “love.” I was a quiet introvert; she was an explosive extrovert. Her energy and immaturity annoyed me (and, I later found out, my reservedness and aloofness annoyed her). She was a good friend — someone I could confide in when my dating relationships went south. But she certainly wasn’t girlfriend material; my heart didn’t do cartwheels when I was around her. There just wasn’t any chemistry there.

I’d like to say I was the first one to wise up, but that’s just not true. It was after four years of genuine, platonic friendship that she — not I — broke the unspoken rule and brought up the possibility of dating. “I don’t think we’d be as bad as we say we’d be,” she said. “I think we should give it a shot. And we don’t have to, like, go on dates or hold hands or anything. We can just hang out and play board games like we always do.”

Well, I thought, I’ve dated some crazy people. And for all the ways we’re different, Brittany’s at least not crazy. Plus, board games! So we noncommittally committed to giving dating a try.

That was eight years ago; this August, we’ll be celebrating our four-year wedding anniversary. I’m no veteran in the field of marriage, but I’m an expert at our marriage, and I can tell you that if I’d known then how happy I’d be now, I would have given up trying to find chemistry a long time ago.

The Problem with “Chemistry”

You can learn a lot about what we think about love by looking at the language we use to describe it. The phrase “falling in love” has always struck me as pretty unromantic. It encourages us to imagine love as a kind of stumble, an unexpected accident you blunder into when you’re not paying attention. It removes the crucial element that makes love truly meaningful — namely, the choice you make to be with a person over literally every other person on the planet.

“Chemistry” is the same way. The term feels exciting and empowering, but it’s also misleading. While it comes to us from the predictable world of science, we use it to describe an essentially mystical experience, something that points to knowledge of compatibility that exists beyond reason, beyond the apprehension of the intellect. In practice, this makes chemistry a confusing mess. What feels like attraction one day can turn to cold indifference the next. We can feel drawn to others who we know will not help us flourish, who are unwilling to die to sin every day for their love, or we can fail to recognize a worthy partner because we’re prematurely looking for a feeling that grows best when it grows slowly.

The notion of love-at-first-sight makes for good stories; in reality signs and wonders of the heart simply can’t sustain the real weight of love. We can’t expect the choice to self-sacrificially serve another person to be made for us by forces beyond our control — not if we want to have a happy, healthy marriage that can withstand the vicissitudes of being a fallen person in a fallen world.

This isn’t to say God has nothing to do with love and marriage, of course. In fact, He’s given us plenty of guidance on the kind of person who makes a good partner and spouse. Interestingly, the qualities of romantic relationships that Scripture highlights have less to with feelings of a “spark” and more to do with the kind of virtues God has cultivated within each partner. Beyond that, the choice is ours to make, the work ours to undertake.

Let Love Grow

With this in mind, I’d like to suggest a different approach to chemistry, one in which we see deep and meaningful romantic attachment as the product, not the catalyst, of a loving relationship. As my brother reminded me at my wedding, “If you do it right, this’ll be the worst day of your marriage.”

A sense of chemistry may be there in the beginning, but if it’s not — or, more importantly, if it wanes at times — it’s not time to throw up your hands and call it quits. Instead, the decision of whether to start or stay in a relationship may best be made by looking at the choices and actions of the one you’re with. Do they respect you? Do they serve you? Do they admire you? Do they care for you with words, hands and feet, as well as their heart?

Because if they do, there’s good news: the scaffolding is already being put in place. Soon, you can start confidently building your wall.

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The unexpected breaks…

I felt it was just yesterday when we were bringing in 2016.Now we are  already in September with only 3 months till the end of the year. Sometimes work can take a lot out of you, where you actually forget to slow down and smell the roses:)

I have felt that in the past couple of months and have been wanting to take a long break. Hoping I get to do that soon, but in the meanwhile I am enjoying the small unexpected rest periods due to my recurring bouts of flu:/

This monsoons have been absolutely crazy. It is  hot in the morning, cloudy during the day and cold at night. By the time I am recovering from my present illness, I catch a new one at the end of the first.

Knowing that God is sovereign over my life and he knows what is best for me, I try to make good use of all these breaks, like catch up on my reading, watch my favorite TV series and of course updating my blog:)

I hope that next time I  blog it won’t be out of compulsion, but because I really want to share something that is close to my heart 🙂