CARA, India’s Adoption Regulation Body

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

India's adoption system faces a significant delay, with nearly 30,000 prospective parents waiting for an average of three years to adopt a child, resulting in only 10% of orphaned children being adopted annually, prompting the Supreme Court to question the issue.


CARA and the JJ Act:

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 aimed to reform the adoption system and curb inter-country adoption rackets.
    • The Act empowered CARA to streamline the process, establish an e-governance system- Child Adoption Resource Information & Guidance System (CARINGS), and allow childcare institutions and civil society organisations to directly give a child for adoption.
    • In-country adoption increased from 3,011 to 3,374, and in 2018, CARA allowed individuals in a live-in relationship to adopt children from and within India.
    • In 2022, India amended the JJ Act, authorising local District Magistrates (DMs) to issue adoption orders and inspect local childcare institutions, child welfare committees, and juvenile justice boards.

Adoption process:

  • Prospective parents register on CARINGS, which conducts a Home Study Report and uploads findings.
  • Unsuitable parents are rejected, and they are required to reserve one to six children for adoption within a specified time.
  • The SAA completes the referral and adoption process, and parents can take in the child for pre-adoption foster care.
  • The SAA files a petition in court, and CARA conducts post-adoption follow-up for two years.
  • The SAA is the first point of government contact for a child, admitting abandoned or orphaned children into temporary homes.
  • CARINGS provides a platform to around 469 specialised adoption agencies, 625 district child protection units, and 34 state adoption resource agencies.


  • Two years ago, civil society organisations and legal bodies flagged that the COVID-19 pandemic left children vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking and urged CARA to simplify its onerous adoption processes.
  • CARA's trials have remained unchanged for a decade, with children awaiting registration evading attention and adoption figures dropping from 6,321 in 2010 to 3,405 in 2021, with only 2,430 available for adoption last year.
  • The adoption process in India faces three main challenges:
    • Bringing children into safety nets: Infrastructural deficiencies and lack of awareness hinder the process, with channels like the SAA and CWC failing to identify children due to poor functioning and administrative issues.
    • Declaring them legally free for adoption: Districts are legally mandated to have licensed adoption agencies, but they fall short, leading to children being informally placed by hospitals, nursing homes, or private health clinics directly with families.
    • Ensuring adoption: The Supreme Court has criticised CARA's "tedious" process, while the latest JJ Act change empowers DMs to pass adoption orders, causing confusion among activists and parents. Inter-country adoptions face difficulties due to CARA's 'no objection certificates' and the high costs of conducting home surveys. Some argue that procedural challenges are a symptom of a "parent-centric system" failing to safeguard a child's well-being and address finer points of care.
  • In 2011, the CARA faced criticism for failing to maintain comprehensive records, monitor placement agencies, encourage timely adoption, and provide training to stakeholders.

Way Forward:

  • CARA should be governed by a special adoption law that is child-centric, optional, enabling, and gender-just.
    • HAMA provides sons to the sonless people for succession, inheritance, and funeral rights, while the JJ Act has a small adoption chapter.
    • Both fail to achieve the objectives of a robust adoption regime.
  • A recent report, “Review of Guardianship and Adoption Laws”, by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice, suggests -
    • Ensure that orphan and abandoned children found begging on the streets are made available for adoption at the earliest.
    • Periodic district surveys should identify orphaned or abandoned children.
  • The country should take care of its orphaned children due to circumstances but should also pay equal attention to the finer aspects of child care and follow a child-centric philosophy.

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