Posts Tagged 'orphanage'

hiv, aids, and kids

Posted by and on 22 Jul 2008 | Category: india, life

This is an account of my visit to Freedom Foundation, an organisation in Secunderabad, where HIV patients and drug addicts are taken care of.

Through talks with Jaya Singh, the project-coordinator, I could learn much about the situations surrounding the organisation and the patients. Freedom Foundation (FF) began in 1993 as a de-addiction centre. But, soon they realised that most of the addicted were HIV cases as well, thus, prompting them to turn their focus on HIV patients. Though Government had been running AIDS pevention and awarness programs from long before, FF was the first organisation that came ahead to take care of the existing patients.

Over there, I got to interact with 25 HIV infected orphans for a few days. Each time, I would wonder how long they are going to survive; how hard it must be for a 13 year old to live with the fact that she is HIV infected, and to know what it means.

We sang, played action songs and colored. A few of their colored greetings are displayed in this article. To wish them on the few birthdays they will be celebrating, check the dates and send your wishes to:

Community Care Centre & Diya Children Home
No: 21, Carriappa Road, Bolarum, Secunderabad -500 010

 

 

 

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The first lesson: HIV is not AIDS

Most of the problem revolving around HIV and AIDS related subjects is ignorance or rather, little information. Many of us confuse between HIV and AIDS. Even I had no clear idea until I met them.

HIV- Human Immunodeficiency Virus
This is just the name of the virus. If a person has contracted this virus, he is said to be HIV+ve. Over a period of years, this virus causes AIDS.

AIDS- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
This is a stage where the HIV has weakened the person’s immune system to such an extent that recovery is impossible. Diseases that might seem nothing to a normal child or an adult will become life threatening to a person with AIDS. Death is inevitable in such a case.

This means that a person with HIV can live a normal and healthy life for years before he/she develops AIDS. Unfortunately, the transition to AIDS is accelerated due to the prejudices and discrimination shown towards them.

Drawing by Akhila, a girl child affected by HIV  Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

Drawing by Akhila

 

 

 

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The first step: by you, by the society
I can call it an eye opener. Mr. Jaya Singh told me that he was involved in AIDS prevention and awareness programs for a few years before he decided to join a place that truly involved in caring for such patients.

The mistake we make is either to discriminate them completely or show them so much of care and concern that they look at themselves as different and feel discriminated!

Though awareness campaigns educate people to a certain extent, it can never bring sensitivity into them. Jaya Singh told pretty blankly to me that even though he is aware of HIV and AIDS and has been handling these cases for few years now, if his own wife is HIV infected, it will naturally occur to him to treat her differently! Also, most of the patients get better not with medicines but social acceptance. Well, let’s say about 25% medicines can work, but the rest 75% is a contribution of the society, and his family and environment. That is why, while patients are treated, side by side, they try to counsel the family and get them to a mentality to accept the patient back into their lives as normal human beings. Many HIV patients turn into AIDS patients only because of the social disturbances caused to them.

Probably, the first thing that our country must do is to have all major hospitals establish departments to treat such patients rather than refer them to organizations like Freedom Foundation.

The other part of discrimination is shown in the fact that none of the hospitals accept HIV infected patients. At the time of child delivery, the women are checked for their blood and if they turn out HIV +ve, they are immediately shown the door and taken to organizations that deal with HIV patients. The number of HIV patients is so high that few organizations like these find it impossible to handle them all. Freedom Foundation has a 30 bed facility and 25 orphaned kids, all infected by HIV. They also treat 600-700 outpatients. However, they run on a meagre amount provided by the government which can support only a 10 bed facility.

What could be done is to train them in various fields of self employment and then encourage them by buying their products.

HIV patients have to be economically independent and they have to be shown ways for it by us. Networking a team of HIV patients to work in groups for self employment purposes will help them to build confidence and by and by feel as an accepted part of the society.

Educate all, beginning from the politicians and policy makers to school children.

Politicians so that they don’t make mockery of the HIV patients, Policy makers so that they work towards the best interest of such patients and school children so that they are taught from early age of the less-privileged in our society and help them to understand and accept them sooner.

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation  Drawing by Harish, a boy child affected by HIV

Drawing by Harish

 

 

 

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The first help: Selfless heart to understand, Money to care

If we have to live thinking someone else will take care of them, then, let us not read this section.

A surprising fact that came to my light was that the government had been running ‘prevention and awareness programs’ for years together now. They spend crores over these. While such programs can be effective to a certain extent, statistics still show that the number of HIV infected population is rising. At some point of time, these people will require care and attention. The government seems oblivious of this hard fact. In the case of Freedom Foundation, the government supports financially for a 10 bed facility, but they run a 30 bed facility with 700 outpatients and 25 orphaned kids to take care of. Even innumerable approaches couldn’t budge the government to realise that money for patient care is required as much as it is required for the awareness programs. Such organizations are then left at the mercy of corporate individuals. Even for the purpose of awareness programs, the trail of bureaucracy involved takes 6-7 months before the program is put into action.

I asked if any politician visited them so far. Till date only one politician visited them and that too, with the media trailing after him for publicity. He was not let in ‘coz he refused to let go off the media. They do not understand the requirement to keep the confidence of these patients by not publicizing them!

Drawing by Likitha, a boy child affected by HIV Drawing by Chandana, a girl child affected by HIV

Drawing by Likitha & Chandana

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation  Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation  Drawing by Bikshapati, a boy child affected by HIV

Drawing by Bikshapati

 

 

 

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The first touch: Kids of Freedom Foundation

The rooms were not painted and I felt they deserved a better facility. Jaya Singh assured that a company has volunteered to get the facility painted for them.

I wished to volunteer to teach the kids something for their summer vacations. The gladness in his face was evident. I walked towards the kids’ room with him. They were bright young ones with ages ranging from 4- 14 years. He said, as before, it is often the treatment of the society that pushes an HIV patient into developing AIDS sooner. Since children are not aware of their condition, they survive the best as they go about living their life normally. I was asked not to talk about their condition to them. But, when you look at them, they seem no different…just like any other….you forget that they could be the carriers of the worst viruses that human race has seen until now. I had nothing to worry.

HIV cannot spread by touch or sharing things or even dry kissing on cheeks. This virus is not airborne. The virus can pass on through internal body fluids like blood, vaginal fluids or breast milk. If one is careful not to come in contact or in exchange with these, you can lead a normal life with an HIV infected person.

Indian Flag, as drawn by a boy child affected by HIV  Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation   Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

 

 

 

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The first true joy: I feel like God

Three days, for a few hours each, I encouraged them to color their thoughts and imagination on paper and songs. Sometimes, I used to wonder, how many of them would live long. We cannot cure them, but we can always make the days that they live a little better by being around these little ones with no one.

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation  Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

Drawing by Akhila, a girl child affected by HIV

Drawing by Akhila

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation    Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

Names and birthdays of the kids at Freedom Foundation

When I reach them and they wait to welcome me, I feel warmth in my heart. When it was time to part, they colored a chart full to gift Roxy and they hovered around me for so long that I had to promise them to return one day.

Drawing for Roxy, by the children at Freedom Foundation

A drawing for Roxy, by all the kids at Freedom Foundation

At the end of it, I felt elated, yet humble to be of service to these children.

Adoption: The Answers (iv)

Posted by and on 06 Feb 2007 | Category: adoption in india

Back in Hyderabad, I decided to take a share of what the adoption agency here has to tell me about the procedures. Quite interstingly, Andhra Pradesh (AP) is the only state that has banned any adoption through Voluntary Coordinating Agency (VCA) following a scam in 1999. The process has been in turn taken over by the Women Development and Child Welfare Development Centre.

At the VCA, I met the assistant director and two social workers. But more than meeting the staff there, what was more heartening was that I saw two parents who had come to take over their adopted kids. One was a baby of 3-5 months and the other was a girl child of 3 years.

In the previous articles, we dealt with some basic questions to be pondered and answered before we think of adoption. In this article, we lay out a step-wise procedure for a normal adoption, as told to me by the social worker I met.

1. Parents come to enquire about the adoption process.

Facts:
a. All adoption is based on first come- first serve basis.
b. A single male cannot adopt a child
c. A single female can adopt a male or female child. However, her parents should be supportive of her desicion. Her income should be atleast Rs 5000 per month and should own some property.

2. Once the parents let know if they want to adopt a male or female child, they are told what the waiting period is.

Facts:
a. In general, the waiting period for a male child is 3-4 years and a female child is 1.5 years. This is based on the availability of the children.
b. Many parents settle to adopt a female child in order to aviod long waiting periods for a male child.
c. Last year (2006), almost 85 female children and only 5-6 male children had been adopted.
d. Their claim is that almost 95% parents come asking for female child adoption.

3. The parents are given information about the adoption procedure and given a list of documents to be submitted to list them in the process for adoption.

4. After around 3 months of the document submission, the staff conduct a home visit to the applicant’s home.

Facts:
a. They make sure the home environment is fine.
b. They speak with family-members and neighbours to make sure that all are fine with the adoption process. Even if one person is not ready for it (parents, in-laws etc…), they can be termed as a home not advised for adoption.
c. Even the surroundings are checked for schools and basic amenities to help the healthy growth of the adopted child.

5. Once everything is fine with the home visit, the parents are listed for adoption and put under seniority process (i.e., first come- first serve).

6. When the child is available for the parents, a letter is sent out to the adopting parents.

Facts:
a. Only 2-3 children are shown to the parents for them to choose.
b. These children are selected carefully , to match the adopting parent’s face, features, complexion etc… This is to avoid any social problems that may arise later.
c. The children are already medically examined for fitness. However, if the parents will, they can conduct any further checkups on their own at their own expense. The child can be rejected if any medical problem is found and the parents will be given to have a second preference.
d. Children who are 5-6 years of age have a developed psychology, so their consent is taken before they are handed over.

7. After the parents are handed over the child, the legalisation process starts.

Facts:
a. They are shown to good lawyers who will file a case of adoption in the court.
b. The assistant director will go and testify the handling over of the child.
c. The orphanage has nothing to do with the religion of the parents who are adopting. Everything to do with the Christian Wards Act is dealt in the court as it is a legal matter.

8. At the Registeration office, the parents need to file the details of the child, for a certificate that will serve as a Birth Certificate in future.

Facts:
The parents can give a new Date of Birth for the child based on an approximate age determined by the orphanage. Usually the parents choose dates with favourable star signs, day, month, etc…

9. Subsequent followup visits are made to make sure everything is going fine.

Facts:
a. 5-6 year olds take a longer time to adapt, especially the boys. If they are given a lot of care and tenderness, they will adapt better to the new parents and environment.
b. Many kids are readily agreeable for adoption.

A peek over NRI adoption…
As stated before, after adoptions through VCA has been handed over to the  Women Development and Child Welfare Development centre in AP, a preference order has been laid down. It being:

  1. Indian Parents
  2. NRI Parents
  3. 1 Indian and 1 foreign parent
  4. Foreigners

Only children who have been continuosly rejected by the Indian parents residing in India will be put up for adoption by the others. They are very often children with disabilities. Right now there are 29 such children in AP for such adoption. Their names and details are in the internet.

Adoption: The Answers (iii)

Posted by and on 29 Aug 2006 | Category: adoption in india

It was time for me to be homebound. Leaving Bangalore was with mixed emotions and there was one thing I wanted to do- visit the orphanage once again, see the kids there and interact with them, and feel nice about what they are doing. I went back to Ashraya one friday afternoon. Reaching there an hour early, I was lucky to meet one of the founders of the place. We struck a good conversation and it was pretty informative for anyone who would be looking at adoption.

Mrs. Chacko was an elderly lady and I sat with her, talking. Here’ s the share….

  • Does the religion of a child or adopting parent form any basis or criteria of adoption?

No, a child has no religion when brought as an orphan. The child’s name might sound anything, but she/he can be adopted by parents of any religion and bring the child up according to their beliefs.

An interesting case she told me was that an abandoned  child named Parveen (muslim name)  was found by police who took her to a safe place where she was named Lakshmi (a hindu name). When she reached the orphanage for adoption, she was Parveen Lakshmi! Who knows if she would be sought to be adopted by Christian parents?

  • What is the Christian Wards and Guardian Act? How does it affect?

According to Mrs. Chacko, this act is not a great deal. It just states that a child adopted by hindu parents automatically becomes a natural inheritor of the parents’ property, thus making the need of writing a will in the name of the child uneccessary. In case of the parents being a non-hindu, the child is not a natural inheritor of the property as they are, by papers, mere guardians to the child. This makes the writing of a will of minimum Rs. 25000/- in the name of the adopted one important. In today’s world, this amount is just meagre. Before adoption, the adopting parents should collect the court order for adoption which will serve as the birth certificate of the child henceforth. This is enough to show that the adopted child is as normal as any other child of the parents’. However, this is taken up as a case in the court of law just to bring uniformity among the mass when it comes to adoption.

Just for information and with no offence to any religion, while christians are still fine with the present rule, the muslim community is pushing to make this rule of uniformity work. As illogical as it may seem, they have their own reason, it being that, they don’t want the muslim orphans to be adopted by parents of different religion and raised into other religious beliefs. So, the logic that I could find here, if any little, is that bringing this law of uniformity could help the muslim community to adopt more children (without the writing of a will initially) and that too of muslim birth, thus keeing the muslim population from being moved to other religions. This case is still running as the muslim minorities could not be dissapointed. 

Another piece of information from another source is that, as a guardian, the non-hindu ‘parents’  lose all legal rights over the child once she/he turns 18 years. This means that, technically, the non-hindu parents act more like a money provider for the child’s growth till she/ he is 18!!? Could that be the reason why this Act is beign challenged in the courts?

She also told me that a hindu parents can adopt only a girl child if they already have a boy and vice versa. It is different with non- hindus, who can adopt any number of girl child or boy child as they want to.

Our converstations continued into more personal lives of each other.Then, somewhere between the talks I dropped a question of adoption by foreign parents. She said that it is all fine, but the orphanage does not have direct contact with the couple, but through an agency located in that country. They  do the neccessary home visits and direct the couples to the orphanages with children on adoption.

  • Is there a rule difference for adoption by an Indan and an NRI?

No. The rules hold same. NRIs are more particular about the children they are adopting. Just that the home visits are conducted by the agencies in that country.

Through the conversation, she told me that Indan parents prefer adopting younger children or infants. Children of certain higher ages like 10-16 years are adopted by foreign nationals. Therefore, these children are taught English. More input was given to me by the teacher I met later.

 

I  was suddenly drifted into thoughts of how the children must be feeling about being adopted, being completely aware that they are not brought up by their own birth parents, but someone else, who, no one knows if they are doing it out of sheer sympathy or love.

  • What is the psychology of the children in the orphanage?

It all depends on how they are brought up. In the orphanage, they are amongst kinds of their own. When they move out to new homes, they are nurtured in a certain way, ways of their new parents. The parents have to treat the child as normal and equal to their own child (if they have). This means no favouritism, or no partiality in anyway. Be frank to the children about their adoption, but make sure to add that there is nothing wrong in it. Tell this to your own child too.

Often parents who adopt overdo their affection for the child. Psychologically, this is to make up for the lost years without a child or because they have to release their emotions for the possesion they got after years together. This, in turn, instead of helping the child could harm, causing mental and psychological imbalances and behavioural problems.

She informed of a baby girl who was adopted after the parents had a boy. The boy is now grown and is proud of the fact that his sister is adopted. He even goes around telling ( i would call it preaching…:D ) that if anyone needs a child, the best place to get is this orphanage!

Another case she told is of a boy being adopted who is proud of the fact that he is an adopted kid and many others like him who always say, “I am from this orphanage, I have this place to tell about, how ’bout you!?”

and then with the kids…

After a while, I thought I would break to see the kids and bidding adieu to Mrs. Chacko and a picture later, I walked myslef upstairs to a room near their classroom. They were watching ‘101 Dalmations’…it was their TV time! As I entered, the warm face of a teacher welcomed me and gestured me to sit down. The childre in that room- 12 girls- turned towards me. After I said a hi, they all chorused a hello to me. I asked them to introduce themselves one by one and they did it smartly inspite of a few shy ones.

The teacher explained that they are not put through different classrooms for study, but in one classroom irrespective of their age. The eldest among them was 12 years old and the youngest one, 6 year. Basic english and mathematics were taught, then they had games and art time. They were also taught about nature and all neccessary things needed to be known.  

When I enquired about the boys, the teacher said that there are none, ’cause all of them are adopted! My last visit also gave me glimpses of only girls aged between 1-3 years! Is it that even now parents favor the male child?

After taking a few pics and mingling with them, I followed them to their tea room across the street. I shared tea with them…feeling like I have returned to my innocence again. They were smart enough to show the dances and songs they had learnt. I then saw a room of beds next to their tea room and on enquiry came to know that it was a room for the pregnant ladies who did not want children. They are allowed to stay there until delivery and then sent away after the kids are born. It was a painful thought. After an hour alone with the girls, I said bye to them and their caretaker for the night had arrived to usher them to their room upstairs.

I walked away waving bye to them to their tiny hands and bright faces from their bedroom window. They gave me a  poster with their names written in the different colors of their dreams that they weave.

kids drawing at adoption center, bangalore, india

 

This article is a sequel to:

  1. Our assignments
  2. Adoption : The Answers (i)
  3. Adoption: The Answers (ii)

Adoption: The Answers (ii)

Posted by and on 07 Apr 2006 | Category: adoption in india

It was a monday when I visited Akshaya Children’s Home in Bangalore. It is approved by the government for adoption. So, I found it to be a place to get reliable information.

As I entered I saw a white cradle hung at the enterance with a bell, like saying, “come and put your baby here and we’ll take care of it”. Then a bit further, I saw a table full of  some 8 month olds sitting around the table on chairs and a lady playing with them. They were such adorable angels! All of them were girls. Then we went to the office, where a lady told that all social workers were in a meeting and it is a busy day so we would have to wait for a while to meet any one of them.

So, we were waiting and I saw a a class being conducted. A while later one of the social workers, came to attend to us. I spoke to her. Looked like they are not allowed to give away information on like that freely, because they need to check if what they would say will be published or put up anywhere. I did not inform her about the website for the fear that she might not give any information at all. So, this is all what she could give in her limited time:

  •  Who can adopt?

The couples who want to adopt must be married at least for 2 years. 

If a single mother is adopting, she needs to be 30- 35 years old. For single men to adopt, they need to be at least 30 years old. Single parents can adopt children of their own sex, that is, single women can adopt only daughters and single men can adopt only sons. They cannot adopt babies, but children above 2-3 years old.

The number of couples willing to adopt children is more than the children in the orphanage (as per the information given). So, they would encourage parents without the capacity to bear children to adopt first.

  • Is there an age limit?

To adopt kids below 1 yr, the oldest spouse must be below 45 years. Then with the increase in age of the adopter, the age of the adoptable child also increases proportionately.

  • Finacial matters?

The minimum monthly income they are looking at Rs. 10 000

Religion matters…

It is easy to adopt by a Hindu couple as once a child is adopted, the child is treated like their own kid. While for any others (christians, muslims etc…), once you adopt a child, you are just guardians or foster parents to the kid. Which means, you have to write a will for the child, to support the child in case anything happens to the adopting parents. Moreover, the adopted child will not enjoy any facilities provided by the government as you are just like guardians to the kid.

  • Can you chose your child?

You can specify the age and sex of the child that you prefer to adopt, and you might be even shown one or two kids, based on availability, but no choices beyond that.

  • What is the basic procedure?
  1. To be kept in mind is that, couples can adopt only from the place of residence. So, if you are in Delhi, you can adopt from Delhi, not from Bangalore.
  2. To follow the procedures, the couple need to register with VCA- Voluntary Coordinating Agency. They will guide the parents through the adoption process. They will also direct the couples to adoption agencies like Akshaya Children’s Home.
  3. Then the social worker from the agency will conduct a home visit.
  4. There might be a waiting period as the number of parents who want to adopt is more than the kids available (so they say). Once the child and adoption is finalised, a medical examination is conducted for the child. The couple need to submit their medical reports as well.
  5. Follow-up home visits take place as and when the agency will be able to conduct one.

Adoption : The Answers (i)

Posted by and on 15 Mar 2006 | Category: adoption in india

Answers to previous post on Adoption

1. Reasons to adopt:

According to me, I have been blessed with a home and able parents. There are many ‘not so’ fortunate kids out there who want to have a family, someone to assist, guide and love. If intentions are good and strong, fortunate ones like me can always look at giving at least one of them a home, guidance and love. This could be my way of thanking life for all the good things I have in life, like my love Roxy (in fact, he is the best to happen! I love him so much!).

2. Procedures for adoption by christian family:

Progress so far:

a. Met Sis. Carmel in St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Bangalore. She informed that they are not into adoption and as per the rules of the Church, information on adoption is not given out freely. I was asked to contact Fr. Jayanathan who might be of some help, but only after taking an appointment.
b. Then, she suggested a place called Shishu Bhavan in Bangalore where information on all this can be obtained, but I have also learnt that they are not so keen giving kids on adoption by Indians, but by parents of foreign origin. Weird! But they must have their own reasons.
c. I also got to know of a place called Vatsalyam in Bangalore, but yet to get more information on it.

3. Psychological problems when you have own child and adopted child in the same family.

 According to me, there should be a concrete and valid reason on why a couple is opting to adopt a child inspite of  them being medically fit to be parents themselves.

If the couple choses to adopt and have a child of their own, the following problems might crop up (mostly owing to natural human behaviour) :

a. Naturally, a tendency to pay more attention to their own kid than the adopted one, may show up in the behaviour of the parents.
b.The couple needs to be financially strong to support the adopted child and their own, else, there would be problems on that front too. That is, spending more on own kid and not giving equal importance to both the kids or, giving best opportunities to own kid than the adopted kid.
c. The adopted child might sense a feeling of negelect due to the above and if not handled properly, might lead to unacceptable behaviour.
d. The adopted child’s mentality will also come into picture depending on which she/he is not to be told about the fact that she/he is adopted. But, is that legal in India to keep the fact hidden from the adopted? (needs to be researched)
e. Parents might face questions from society on why child is being adopted.Indian society does not know how to mind their own lives, but believes in minding everyone else’s lives more 😀
f. Society’s pressure can hit the children’s psychology, mostly the adopted kid’s psychology, leading to complicated problems, which might in turn be a problem to the parents.
g. Any problem detected in the child (psycological/ physical/ others) in a later stage, can lead the parents to slowly abandon  the interest in that child.

It is necessary that the parents are consciously aware of these problems and maturely decide to adopt a child ‘coz in a bid to give life, they should not spoil one (or many). They should be strong enough to face any problems that might arise due to this adoption- there can be many. Then, it is about how tenderly you care for the child as your own, and in fact, more than your own child. This can happen if you truly find the love to adopt a child and give a life to it in your heart.