The government is trying to simplify the process of adopting children so that it can be wrapped up in two to three months, officials said.
Adoptions now often take more than a year to complete, the red tape and delays scaring off many couples.
A committee formed by the women and child development ministry is drafting amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act to streamline adoption procedures, introduce time-bound approvals and mandate specialised centres in every district for adoption by foreign couples.
Sources said the ministry did not want children to stay longer than necessary at adoption centres. They added that the Central Adoption Resource Authority was concerned that procedural hassles had led to a 50 per cent dip in the adoption of Indian children by foreigners over the past five years.
According to government estimates, there were about 32,000 children in orphanages in the country in 2010 but only 6,286 were adopted, some 600 of them by foreigners. About 25,000 children await adoption every year, the sources said.
Under the draft proposals, the district juvenile justice board — an arm of the district court — will approve adoptions instead of the district magistrate. Officials say this has been the most time-consuming part of the adoption process till now since the district magistrates have a lot on their plate.
The draft bill also proposes that the child welfare committee, a district-level body that alone can declare a child legally free for adoption, will have to do so within a specific timetable — a fortnight for abandoned newborns and two months for the rest.
“Every year, thousands of children languish in the orphanages because the system is so stressful that many prospective parents don’t want to go through the hassle,” a ministry official said.
“While many other countries have a single-window process, ours is a 12-step procedure. We hope to bring it down to a simple six-step process.”
After all the amendments have been worked out, the draft will be sent to the cabinet for approval. It isn’t clear whether the amendment bill can be introduced in Parliament in the monsoon session.
The draft bill recommends that anyone buying or selling children for adoption should be jailed for up to five years and that any irregularities by adoption centres should be punished with a Rs 10,000 fine and a three-year term.