Adopting from India: adoption process is different from many countries

We often get questions about adopting from India.  Marla Summers has researched such adoptions, and offers these insights and resources...
By Marla Summers

 No one ever said that doing hard things comes naturally, much less easily. But in some way that’s why we attempt what everyone else deems confusing and challenging. Something in us make us fly to the other side of the globe and navigate foreign regulations and brave a culture so different than our own. Something that makes those long months of waiting so worth it. Something that goes beyond the physical, stretching us farther than our highest dreams. The journey? Adoption.

Why India?

According to UNICEF, India is home to over 55 million orphans, making up almost half of its total child population. India stands first in the world for the number of orphaned children, as well as those affected by HIV, both rates being expected to double in the next five years. The unimaginable challenges these children face is compounded by the stigma associated with the disease, marking them as a class of untouchables according to the caste system still present today. Many children are also abandoned by their parents due to the extreme poverty made no easier by feeding yet another mouth. 

India is a member of the Hague Adoption Convention, requiring its children to meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. The Government of India requires that the child must have placement attempted with a family in India before the child is eligible for international adoption or fostering. Around 4,000 Indian orphans found their way into stable homes in the U.S. the past decade, a number that is expected to decline in the next few years. And that’s bad news for the growing numbers of abandoned children who call the streets of India their home.

Guidelines for Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs)

The Government of India allows a child to be given in adoption under the following circumstances:
- To an individual irrespective of his or her marital status
- To a childless couple
- To a couple with at least two years of stable marital relationship 
- There may be no more than three children already in the home

More specifically, there is additional eligibility criteria for PAPs as outlined by the government to ensure the well-being and stability of the child's new family. The legal age of the PAP(s) is between 25 and 50 years, give or take five years depending on the age of the child and the circumstances. Couples in live-in relationships are not eligible to adopt a child, and the Indian Government does not knowingly place children with homosexual couples. The PAP(s) should have sufficient financial resources to raise the child, especially if he or she has special needs. Also, neither PAP should have a physical or mental condition that would prevent them from taking care of the child. 

Beginning the Adoption Procedure

1. Choose an adoption service provider
2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
3. Be matched with a child
4. Apply for the child to be found eligible for adoption
5. Adopt child (or gain legal custody) in India
6. Bring  the child to the US and acclimate to the culture and language                                                                                                               In total, the approximate cost of the adoption ranges from $13,000-$16,000 + travel + Indian visa + the cost of finalizing the adoption. PAPs must register with a single Hague-accredited adoption agency, located nearest to their place of residence if possible. All foreign adoptions from India go through the CARA authorized agency referred to as the Authorized Foreign Adoption Agency (AFAA) and follow the guidelines at the CARA website, After you have submitted your dossier, the waiting time will probably run over a year for a girl and probably longer for a boy, depending on availability. PAPs with Indian descent or those seeking to adopt special needs children are given priority in the adoptions.

Special Needs Children

For the purposes of adoption, the "special needs" banner extends to children in the following categories: 
- Children having visible or serious medical conditions, mental or physical
- Older children
- Siblings
- Extremely low birth weight children (as certified by a Government Medical Officer)

It is the role of the Specialized Adoption Agency to make efforts to prepare the special needs child for adoption, especially in the category of emotional preparation. The PAP(s) will receive detailed medical data and orientation sessions to help them to understand the child's needs and make an educated decision. It is advised that the older children are counseled and begin the bonding process as soon as possible, as well as learning English early on, if applicable.  Special needs children are often a better fit for older and experienced parents and those who have the skills, patience, and experience to be better equipped to parent such a child. 

Finalizing the Adoption

After the referral has been received, there will be a second wait of 4-6 months before the PAP(s) receives the legal documents required to travel to India to pick  up the child. There is a fair degree of differing on travel requirements, depending on the Indian child welfare institution your agency is connected with. The PAP(s) will be obligated to spend anywhere from 3-5 days to 5-6 weeks in the Indian state visiting the child or the institution. According to the Indian Government, the minimum adoption age for the child ranges from two to four years, depending on the state and agency. 

The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in India generally includes the following three parties.

- Adoption Authority
The Central Adoption Resource Agency is the official national agency that oversees international adoptions in India.

- The Court
The court will normally require, at a minimum the “No Objection Certificate” (NOC), a birth certificate or affidavit of birth, and evidence of abandonment to grant the custody order.

- Role of Adoption Agencies
In addition, all recognized adoption agencies (or placement agencies) in India are local and must be registered with their Indian state Voluntary Coordinating Agency (VCA). Placement agencies do not provide national coverage, so PAPs must determine the Indian state from which they propose to adopt. The Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), established in 1990, licenses all the VCAs and all Indian placement agencies.


Whether adoption has been something long on your heart or it is an option you have only just considered recently, there has never been a better time to give a child a second chance. The legal process may seem daunting, but the best journeys are never the easy ones. And you too will come to admire the struggling street children of India and the parents that work tirelessly to call them their own.

 “The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” - Mother Teresa


Contact Information

Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA)
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
West Block VIII, Wing II
2nd Floor, R. K. Peram
New Delhi - 110 066
Tel: 91-011 618-0194

Embassy of India, Washington, D.C.
2107 Massachusetts Ave, N. W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: (202) 939-7000