Adoption in India: A Comprehensive Guide

There is currently a whole lot of information scattered around the internet today. This guide aims to bring all this information into a single central place clearing doubts and questions and fears of hundreds of couples out there looking to bring happiness into their lives.

One of the biggest joys that humans can feel is holding a tiny little human, innocent, free from any human created traits, raw and pure. The tiny little hands, legs and those big eyes trying to focus on your face, while you hold them to dear life protecting them from any and everything around. While some may not relate to this sentiment (it's perfectly normal and ok - you don't have to), others will feel the emotion close to their heart.

Pregnancy works in mysterious ways. While science may have progressed leaps and bounds, there is still is a large area of uncertainty and variables factored in. Call it life, destiny, luck, god's will or simply the vibe of the universe you are cut out from, its still a large unknown, where all we can do is hope and pray. It will happen when you least expect it. Some not yet ready for parenthood and on the other hand, there are people who are ready but unable to.

While science is helpful to get what you need, it has its own price for you to pay. Be it IUI or IVF, the hormonal injections, the constant stress (ironically they tell you it works better if you aren't stressed), the emotional high and then the acute depression when cycles don't work. While you start off hopeful, a big part of you taken away in the whole process, leaving behind plenty of scars - physical and emotional. This the part where most couples start considering adoption as a real option and open their hearts to a child who needs your love, but in-fact brings so much love back to you...

Why Adopt? The Big Question

The big question, should we adopt or not? If we do why should we?

Now this is an important step in the entire adoption process. Unfortunately, our society has created an unwanted taboo around having a non blood related heir (bloodline or 'vansh' as we like to call in India). This overlooks the very important part that you truly become a parent after the birth of the child with the care and upbringing you provide and not simply by giving birth. Even Lord Krishna loved Mayya Yashoda more. 

Having said that, if you truly believe that you want to be a parent, love and be loved by a child and devote all your time, love and energy into this tiny human, only then you should proceed for adoption (or even pregnancy for that matter). Do not do it under societal or family pressure under any circumstances. You need to want to be a parent, since it demands everything you can possibly offer and then some more. Being a parent impacts your marital relationship, friends, habits, lifestyle, health, everything. So you need to be really sure you are willing to compromise all that if need be.

When it comes to adoption, do not do it because you want to earn brownie points with God or anyone else. Do it because being a parent is something you deeply desire and willing to pour your heart out to love a child irrespective of its past, race, religion, color, etc. Do it for yourself, because loving and raising a child makes you happy, makes you complete. Only then would you be able to do true justice to the child. 

The most common doubt that people have is 'If I have a biological child and an adopted one then in extreme circumstances would I be biased towards the adopted one?'. First and foremost, the child did not choose to come to you, you picked the child and agreed to love as your own. The moment you take the child and sign the papers, the child is your own and not someone given on lease to you. If you feel you are capable of this bias then you need to take the time and introspect real hard before you decide to step into being a parent.

This is a lifetime commitment and one of the most important relationships that you will be stepping into... so it's all in or all out.

When to Adopt?

The perfect time is when you (and your partner) are both in agreement to fully commit to being parents. As a couple, it is extremely important that both individuals are ready and doing it of their own desire and comfort and NOT for reasons like

     this will keep my partner happy
     parents/family expect you to have a child
     you will be ok once the child is home
     a child might save your marriage (myth)

It's doubts like these which can result in unhappy households. If you are unsure, you can still go ahead with the process (since its a long one), but do not agree/accept a child unless you are really confident and sure from the bottom of your heart. This is really really important to decide whether your future is going to be a happy one or an angry, tired and frustrated one. You cannot fake being parents all your life.

If you are planning to be a single parent, you need to be ready to put in double the efforts, for now you have be both the mother and the father to the child. If you are truly willing to make that level of a commitment and sure about it from the bottom of your heart, then you are ready to put your step forward.

How to Adopt (in India)?

The process is a bit long but rather simple. While COVID created a backlog and hit the availability of children, it should come back on track soon and make up for lost time. You need to note that the wait times are longer for small and normal children since demand is greater than availability. If you are looking for or are eligible for an older child or a special needs child, the situation is reverse.

Key Points to Note

  1. The minimum wait time for adoption is 2 years and currently at 3.5 years till the backlog created by COVID has been cleared
  2. The youngest child you can get is 4 months old (unless you are adopting within the family), owing to the process of registering a child in the system (gazette notifications, health checks, paperwork, etc)
  3. The system is now online and put in place to keep trafficking and other child endangering activities in check. Do not attempt to bribe or try to obtain a child illegally (this will result in a plethora of legal trouble for you)
  4. For medical fitness certificates, prefer an M.D. doctor, else you may be asked to get another one made (Sample)

Eligibility Criteria

  1. You are of sound mind and your partner (if any) and other dependents (if any) living with you are fully aware and support your decision (this will be verified - they will be asked in person)
  2. The age group for the child that you can apply for depends on the combined age of your partner and you (or yourself if single) 
    For e.g. if the combined age of a couple is less than 90 years, only then they can opt for a child in the 0-2 range
  3. The house the adoptive parent(s) live in is safe for a child to grow
  4. Adoption within the family is quicker but with a lot of documentary work
  5. Single men can only opt for a male child, while single women can opt for either gender child
More Details available at CARA

Fees Involved

  1. ₹6,500 for Home Study Report
    Valid for 3 years. To be redone if adoption hasn't been done by then
  2. ₹50,000 as Adoption Fees at the time of taking custody of the child
These are the current rates and subject to change over the years with inflation and demand. The payments are to be done online only and no cash is accepted. This goes to the Govt. accounts set up for the adoption agencies and released with bookkeeping. The agencies cannot demand cash from you. 

Online Registration

  1. The first step is to register yourself/selves are Parent on the CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) portal - via the Parents menu on top. Select the appropriate category i.e. Resident Indian Parents, or OCI/NRI or Foreigners, etc

  2. Please enter all details exactly the same as your documentary proofs i.e. Passport, Marriage Certificate, Aadhar, etc as these are going through a legal and verification process and you do not want a mismatch

  3. IMPORTANT: If your passport/PAN/Aadhar have a mismatch in address/name/etc, kindly get them corrected or ensure you explicitly highlight it during the Home Study Report (explained below) so it is logged and does not go against you requiring a last minute run around and expense 
  4. As part of the registration, you will need to select an Adoption Agency closest to you. Do bear in mind, this is not the agency you will get a child from, but this is the agency that will do your home study including original document verification and home visit and post adoption follow ups. You may have to visit them a couple of times during the process, so ensure it is close to your registered address as per your proofs (this is the address they will visit and do post adoption follow ups too)

  5. The next is the criteria for child matching, wherein you provide your preferences

  6. The Current Waiting Status will give you an idea of the queue and child availability for you to be able to choose the Zone accordingly

  7. You are allowed to change these preferences only twice while you are in the queue/waitlist, so, do take your time and discuss with partner/family before you select
  8. Post Registration, you can login and then you will then have to upload your documents to the portal via the 'Upload Documents' link
         Current photo/family photo
         PAN Card
         Birth Certificate
         Address Proof (Aadhar/Passport/etc)
         Salary Slip / Tax Declaration
         Medical Fitness Certificate (Sample)
         Marriage / Divorce / Death Certificate

    More details available at CARA
  9. Once this is done, the documents will be sent for verification. There is a check status link available for you to check the current status of your application

  10. If any further documents are required or re-upload is required, you will see a message on the portal (email/sms are also sent but not reliant - do check regularly on the portal)
  11. Once verified and accepted, you will get added to the queue/waitlist as prospective parents

Home Study Report (HSR)

  1. You will then need to reach out to the agency for getting the HSR done (this will have to be initiated by you)

  2. Post introductory formalities, you will be assigned a social worker, who will explain this process to you. Do make sure you ask and clarify all doubts you have about process/documentation/timeline or even for that matter on how to manage/cope with the child post adoption. Do save her/his number as you will be in touch for the next few years
  3. The social worker will inform you of the fees and provide the details for the transfer
  4. Once done, you will be asked to submit latest copies (physical) of your proofs to them (do note they are an NGO running basis donations and govt funds, so do not expect them to bear the costs of printing/etc for a whole set of documents - a couple of ad-hoc last minute documents is ok). Normal set of requested documents of the parent(s)
         PAN Card
         Aadhar Card
         Latest 3 Salary Slips
         Employment Letter
         Office ID card
         6 month Bank Statements
         Tax Returns (2 years)
         Medical Fitness Certificate (Sample)
  5. You will also be provided a latest version of the Home Study Form template (Sample) to fill in and send back to them. This is an exhaustive questionnaire and it is recommend you take out some time dedicated to fill this out. It includes details like:
         Demographics (Name, Address, etc)
         Family and Dependent Details
         Investment Proofs
         Employment Details
         Tax Details
         NOC from dependents
         Reason/motivation for adoption
         and other similar questions
  6. You will also need to provide details of a close family member (preferably siblings), below the age of 35 years, that is willing to take custody of the child in the event of the death or terminal illness of the adoptive parent(s)
  7. Do submit a soft copy first to the social worker and update basis feedback (this could be a to and fro a few times)
  8. Once finalised, you will have to submit a full physical set including the Home Study document and copies of all documents to the adoption agency social worker
  9. The social worker will validate these documents (you may have to visit the agency for the original verification) or this can be done during the home visit too
  10. The social worker visits your home to validate the address, check for safe living conditions for the child, raise any concerns/questions and to meet and talk to the dependents in the house to get their perspective and agreement to the adoption
  11. Post the visit, the social worker will update the Home Study Report with her findings (not shown to you - official purpose only) and seal the documents
  12. Once this is done, the only thing to do is wait for a child to be allocated/referred to you. It is the most difficult part since the wait is extremely long, but keep the hope alive
  13. During this period, do ensure to update the social worker for any relevant changes i.e. change of address, birth of child, death of any applicant, employment/job change, email/phone no change, etc
  14. It is important to ensure that all information with the social worker and on the CARA website is up to date for you to be referred a child for adoption else you risk last minute re-HSR or getting dropped again to the bottom of the queue


  1. You will be able to check your queue status/Seniority on the CARA portal via the 'View your Seniority' link post login

    Do Note, this is purely indicative and not an exact representation. You could be allocated a child even with your seniority as 100 or 150. The allocation is done by the quarter you applied in. For e.g you applied in Q1 2024 (Jan-Mar 2024), you will be allocated anytime when they reach the applicants for that quarter (they are currently 3.5 years behind and catching up)

  2. Once your seniority approaches 100 for any of the states you have chosen, do the following
         Re-evaluate your decision to adopt
         Discuss with your partner and family
         Keep HSR Agency contact handy
         Keep documents (originals) handy
         Keep soft copies of documents handy
         Report changes (home/job/death) 
         Check if HSR is still within 3 years
         Do a fresh HSR if 3 years have passed
         Decide on a name for the baby

Child Referral / Allocation

  1. Once a child is referred to you, you will receive a notification via sms/email (provided your details are up to date)
    Recommendation is to check frequently once you reach the 100 mark in the queue

  2. At this point you will have 48 hours to make a decision on whether you want to go ahead with the adoption of the referred child or not. This can be a bit overwhelming since it is sudden, so the points below will come in handy to make that important life altering decision
  3. Login to the portal and head to the Referred Children section, this will will show you the details of the child referred with the agency information (address/contact/etc)

  4. The portal also attaches a picture of the child (usually not latest) and medical evaluation and reports
  5. Check the details of the child carefully including the reports. Get them validated by your family doctor if you have doubts
  6. Reach out to the agency contact and introduce yourself as prospective parent of the referred child
  7. You can (and should) request for latest photos/videos or a video call to see the child (in case the child referred is far and travel to physically meet is not possible within the 48 hours timeframe)
  8. Once you have read the reports and seen the child, take the time to ask yourself and then discuss with partner/family to come up with the decision and action accordingly on the CARA website under the same section of Referred Children
  9. In case you are unsure or have concerns, you can opt to not proceed with the referred child, in which case the child will be referred to the next parent(s) in the queue
  10. In this case, you will still have 2 more referrals (with a gap of 30-40 days approx each) to decide. Each time you will have the same 48 hours and details to make the decision
  11. If you reject all 3 referrals, you go back to the end of the queue/waitlist (another 3-4 years before your next referral)
  12. If you decide to go ahead with any of the 3 (you can only select current referral, not the previous one), then you need to accept the referral (reserve child) on the CARA website under Referred Children (you will receive email confirmations) and inform the agency immediately

  13. Post acceptance, you have 30 days to complete the documentation work and take custody of the child. Delays will result automatic cancellation of the referral and you being sent back to the end of the queue
  14. If for any reason, post acceptance, you decide to not go ahead with the adoption, you will go back to the end of the waitlist/queue (hence it is important that you video call the child or get latest pictures and also validate the reports with a doctor before accepting)
  15. IMPORTANT: Apply for a Police Clearance Certificate (most states have it online) immediately, this is the most time consuming document and required for adoption (you can do it earlier too, but it is only valid for 3 months)

    The Police Clearance Certificate sometimes takes a long period (1 month or so). Do not panic, since you will require this primarily for the Court Order (which will take another month or so) and you can take a screenshot of the application and share with Adoption Agency at the time of taking custody. However, the earlier you apply the better

Matching and Custody

  1. The agency of the referred child will send you the list of documents to be submitted to get the adoption clearance and Foster Care Agreement drafted. Most common list of documents requested for adoptive parent (for each parent in case of a couple):
         Home Study Report (Original - Sealed)
         Birth Certificate
         Marriage / Divorce / Death Certificate
         Pan Card
         Aadhar Card
         HIV, Hep. B, HCV Reports
         CBC, LIPID Profile, Creatinine Reports
         Medical Fitness Certificate (Sample)
         Form 16/Tax Declaration for 3 years
         6 Months Bank Statement
         Investment Proofs
         Police Clearance Certificate (Sample)
         Employment Letter
         Office ID card
         3 Months Salary Slips
         Latest Photo/Family Photo
         Motivation Letter
         2 Reference Letters (Sample, Sample)
         Aadhar Card copy of Referrers
         Affidavit (₹100 stamp paper & notarized) from relative(s) mentioned in HSR who is/are willing to take custody in event of death of adoptive parents (Sample)
         Aadhar card copy of Relative(s)
  2. You will have to submit these over email/WhatsApp to start the verification process and get a date for custody agreement
  3. On the selected date for Matching (within 30 days from accepting referral from CARA website), you will need to physically visit the orphanage. A few tips for your visit
         Finalise name for the baby in advance
         Carry sweets/chocolates for staff/kids
         Carry clothes for the baby
         Wear simple non flashy clothes
         Carry originals of all documents
         Carry 3 copies of documents as sets
         Carry 3 copies of the submitted photo
         Plan for a 5-6 hour wait at orphanage
  4. Plan to buy basics like diapers, rash cream, thermos, bedding/blanket, beanie, etc in advance to not have to rush at the last moment
  5. IMPORTANT: At the agency, post document verification, you will have to sign a Temporary Custody / Foster Care Agreement for taking the baby home. As part of the agreement, the baby is still a child of the agency and has been put into your care until the final court order has been received
    You should not share pictures of the child on social media or perform mundan (shaving head) or ear piercing till you get the final court order and the child is legally yours
  6. The agency social worker will hand you the draft for reading and verification, please ensure names and addresses are accurate as per your ID proof (Aadhar/Passport), since this will be sent to court and birth certificate registration. The new name of the baby will also have to be entered into this document, so make sure you are ready with it
  7. Once confirmed, you will need to sign the agreement and you will receive a stamped copy for yourself (Sample)
  8. The orphanage doctor and head will want to have a final conversation with you, before handing you the baby's custody. They are basically trying to check if there are any red flags and the baby will be safe and happy in your care
    Unless you are there with ulterior motives, the questions are basic and you do not need to be afraid or nervous
  9. They will provide the history, medication (if any) and other details pertaining to the routine of the baby. Please feel free to ask any questions/doubts you may have. Do note that the history/back story of these babies is not a happy one, so do be mentally prepared in case you want to know about it
  10. They will also have a general conversation on what to expect in the first few days and how to cope with a change in lifestyle and adapting to the baby and helping the baby adapt to you. While some get attached immediately, others may take time to get adjusted to you and your surroundings (it is different child to child - normally, the smaller the child, the easier the adaption)
  11. You get to finally meet the baby, hold her/him, hug her/him and accept her/him as your own. Its perfectly ok to feel overwhelmed or to cry and you should not hold back those emotions as those will help both you and the baby connect and bond faster. The moment is magical and will be etched in your memory for ever and ever. To hold this tiny little human ready to give you so much love and happiness you have craved for years and to make you feel finally complete
  12. The agency staff will want to take a picture for the records and you may want some for yourself
  13. Once the formalities are done, you can hand out the sweets, change and feed the baby and then take it home completing an important stage in the adoption process

    NOTE: In case you want to fly back with the baby, you can book a ticket with the name you want to give the baby. The custody agreement you get from the orphanage will have this new name and your name and can be used as proof of identity in absence of the birth certificate

Final Court Order and Birth Certificate

  1. The next step is getting the court order from the district magistrate (2nd trip), for which the adoption agency will apply for an appointment date. The agency will get your preferences and try to find a date in that range and confirm back once done
  2. The adoptive parent(s) will need to be physically present with the baby in the District Magistrate office with all original documents. Please carry all originals including the ones shown to the agency at time of custody and others like educational certificates, property agreements, etc. Keep the digital copies handy as well
  3. The agency social worker will be present with you and will hand you the draft copy of the court order for verification. Please ensure all entries made are correct and match your ID proofs, since this order is what you will use to make birth certificate, passport, aadhar, etc and corrections after stamping is not possible
  4. The magistrate might want to ask questions pertaining to your intent, employment and background before signing the court order
  5. Once done, you are one more step closer to having the baby as legally yours
  6. IMPORTANT: Do expect a long wait period (5+ hours) so pack everything you need accordingly like baby food, diapers, wipes, etc and your own snacks, etc to be able to ride out the time
  7. The court order will next be sent for notary and stamping by the agency (takes about a week or so) and then you should receive the original via courier and a digital copy on the CARA website in the next few days
  8. The agency will also apply for the birth certificate and once again send you the form for correction/verification prior to submission
  9. The birth certificate will take anything from 2 to 6 weeks depending on whether it's from a Tier I or Tier II city and will be sent to you by the adoption agency

Post Adoption

  1. There are 4 mandatory followups to be done at 6 monthly gaps (2 per year - total 2 years of followups)
  2. The dates are available on the CARA website under Post Adoption Followup

  3. The followup will be done by the same agency that conducted your HSR and upload the report/findings to CARA
  4. They do this to ensure that the child is well taken care of and both parents and child have adjusted well with each other. Any form/hint of child endangerment could lead to enquiry and cancellation of adoption (there have been cases of physical abuse, malnourishment and torture of kids - where they needed to be rescued - hence the process is in place)
  5. In case of address change in the next two years, please keep the social worker from the local agency and the orphanage updated
  6. IMPORTANT: It is your responsibility as parent to ensure that followup is done by the due date and report uploaded to CARA. Connect with the agency a few days before each followup to ensure there is no lapse. A lapse will raise a red flag with CARA leading to enquiry

Living with the Adopted Child

All said and done, while we may have the craving for a child, being a parent is definitely not easy. It is a full time commitment, where someone else takes higher priority than yourself. You get to test your patience, stamina, emotions but at the end of it you are rewarded with endless love.

You need to be mentally ready that the baby will have an adjustment period, just like yourselves. The baby for weeks has settled in the orphanage with the caretakers as known faces/comfort zones. They are suddenly being uprooted and taken to a complete new place with a complete new set of faces and none of the existing elements available. The child may take time to settle, find it's place, it's routine and understand that you are it's safe space now and you will be the one loving and caring for it. 

Do expect a few days of crying and erratic eating/sleeping patterns till the child adapts to you and your touch. Stay patient and persistent. Having said that, if you are lucky, the kid may just instantly attach to you and you won't have this problem. However, it is better to be mentally prepared than be hit with a surprise.

Find a local paediatrician and take the child for a checkup visit after 2-3 days of settling at home. The doctor will check and may prescribe certain tests like OAE hearing tests, NBS (New Born Screening), CBC, etc to determine and baseline the health of the child and suggest multi-vitamins if needed. The tests are good to do and will help any long term precautions/issues which can be solved/fixed at the current stage itself. Furthermore, the kids may be undernourished and will require extra attention to milk, solids, massage/oiling and hygiene. They would require a couple of months to stabilize and catch up to normal healthy babies. Again, patience and perseverance are the key.

Spend as much time as possible with the baby in the initial days to build the bond/relationship with the baby. The older the kid gets, the more time it takes, so, start early. Once the child hooks on to you, then there is no looking back, the happiness in your house will skyrocket.

Final Words

Hope this has been helpful to help you prepare and apply for adoption. If you have questions/queries, do comment here and I shall try and respond as soon as I can.

The CARA website has a plethora of information. The social workers assigned to you and the adoption agency contact will also provide all information you need. Ask questions when in doubt, don't assume or hold back. The only stupid question is the one not asked.

Best of luck for your journey into a new phase in life.

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