Sharanya and her husband decided to adopt even before they got married. About three years after their wedding, in 2020, they registered with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which is the centralised platform for any adoption in India. It's been almost three years since then and the couple still waits for the day they will be able to bring their children (they opted to adopt siblings) home.

Any mother who's delivered a child would know how difficult it is to wait even for nine months, to see the face of their little one, and be able to hold and care for the baby. Waiting for a minimum of three years and even then being unsure of when and whether you will be able to bring the child home is stressful for any parent who's longing for a child.

But before we talk about prospective adoptive parents (PAPs), let's look at why there is such a long wait in the first place. One of the reasons cited is that there are not enough children available for adoption. There is a huge gap between the number of prospective parents and the number of children available for adoption.

This might sound illogical, considering the fact that there are more than 30 million orphaned or abandoned children in India. But the fact is that while there are more than 29,000 PAPs, only 2,430 children are currently eligible for adoption, according to the latest statistics.

This is out of the 6,996 orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children living in childcare institutions. According to CARA guidelines, which have been formulated carefully to protect the rights and interest of the child above everything else, only those children who do not have parents or relatives who are willing to take care of them are eligible for adoption.

Meanwhile, more than 30,000 million children are waiting to be legally free for adoption. Some of the reasons for this include incomplete paperwork, and the fact that many child care centres are not linked to adoption agencies in any way. Childcare workers are not always well-equipped with case reports and medical reports and hence the paperwork takes more time.

This is a huge disservice to India's children, as every year that goes by, a child is deprived of the support and warmth of a loving family. This can have a great impact on his/her development.

According to an August 2022 parliamentary panel, between 2017-19, CARA faced an unusual upsurge in adoptive parents "returning children". It is reported that 60 percent of all children returned were girls, 24 percent were children with special needs, and many were older than six.

Only 40 children with disabilities were adopted between 2018 and 2019, accounting for approximately 1 percent of the total number of children adopted in the year. It was also reported that annual trends reveal that domestic adoptions of children with special needs are dwindling with each passing year.

Sindhu Nayak, member incharge , Adoption Scrutiny Cell, Karnataka State Council said, "a reason why there are so few adoptable children is possibly because a lot of children are being trafficked and placed with families. However, there is no available data on it.

"We had a case in 2016 in Mysuru where they found that 16 babies were illegally placed in families. You also get reports every few months of some nursing some in some part of the country that has been involved in these illegal adoptions."

The process of adoption can also be mentally taxing for prospective parents. The setting up of CARA in 1990 has been a welcome move, parents feel that this has definitely streamlined the adoption process. PAPs are able to register and get all the information necessary more easily. However, with a centralised system comes the difficulties of data being updated regularly.

For example, Sonali Seth, an adoptive parent, recalled how she had registered with CARA and was matched with a child from Goa. But when she enquired about it, she was told the child was already adopted.

A lot of PAPs also complain about the lack of transparency within the system. While everyone agrees that the interests of the child should be prioritised, many feel that better transparency on the status of their application, and answers to why there is a delay would make a huge difference to them.

In the current scenario, PAPs are having to wait for a minimum of three years without any information on why there is a delay. Sharanya, who had applied to adopt siblings said, "there is a lot of discussion about the lack of transparency on support groups for PAPs online. Many of us have also signed petitions asking for more information in terms of why it is taking so many years.

"Right now, it is just crowdsourced information. We find out from each other as to who's got a call, and we calculate data for ourselves. There is a waitlist number. I was initially numbered in the 1000s, then moved to the 800s and now We're somewhere in the 200-300 range.

"It is almost inconsequential to keep track of the number because when you do get the call,you're nowhere close to the top 50, which at least makes you feel a bit confident that you're inching closer. There are also cases where after three years, some parents' profiles have been nullified.

"So a lot of parents fear that this wait is useless and we'll probably have to register and go through the process all over again. We would feel a lot more comfortable if we just knew when to expect a call, so we wouldn't be anxious every single day. We understand how difficult it is for them to upload all the information, but we wish there was a little more transparency."

There is also a lot of insensitivity when it comes to some categories of PAPs and the whole process can be extremely discouraging. For instance, Daya (name changed on request), said her status as a single woman made it extremely difficult for her to adopt a child, despite several attempts.

She recalled, "when I was 26, I started researching. I approached CARA, but the first thing I received was a sense of discouragement. Some people I met said things like 'oh you're single, why don't you get married', 'what if your future husband doesn't accept the adopted child?'

"I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and I was asked about that. I am plus sized, and I was mocked and asked 'bringing up a child takes a lot of energy, how will you run behind a child'. I thought to myself, 'what does it even mean, how does anybody run around a child?"

According to the August 2022 Parliamentary panel, some of the recommendations were to have a 'monthly meeting chaired by the District Magistrate in every district to ensure that orphan and abandoned children found begging in streets are produced before the Child Welfare Committee and are made available for adoption at the earliest.'

It also suggested that although many children have parents, they may not necessarily be under optimal care and such children need to be immediately brought under the safety net of the government.