By Arun Dohle
There are several challenges one faces in a search. They all have to be overcome.
1) Cultural and linguistic barriers. Most of us adoptees do not speak Hindi or other Indian languages.
2) We are often seen as a way to gain $$$. I face this still, each time I try to hire a car. I’m always asked to pay more.
3) One needs to have good local help. The person who’s helping must understand the adoption process, in order to re-construct the events. Essential for a search.
4) The person who’s helping should be able to deal with the authorities, such as the police, government departments and adoption agencies. He/she should not take “no” as an answer, nor give up a search at the first challenge.
5) Finding the right, trustworthy and capable local people is the biggest challenge.
6) In India, addresses are not as we know them in the west. They are often given with landmarks, rather than numbers, and landmarks (like shops) can change. If there is an address it may well be an old address. Furthermore, the people may have moved. Sometimes people have passed away. The trail goes cold.
7) We cannot simply knock on the door of a women who, at the time of our birth, was a stigmatized “unmarried mother” and may now have children and a husband. Hardly anyone knows about our existence. The search has to be carried out with the utmost of respect for the mother’s current situation. We are very carefully and discreet. Our experience and capacity is there in case something goes wrong. We can actually deal with the situation.
I’m of the opinion that searches in the cases of unmarried mothers should only be carried out by a qualified Indian social workers with a Masters Degree. Not private detectives, not journalists, not the first person who is willing to help.
I can’t execute a search on my own, even though I have spent a lot of time in India. Like all of you, I need the help of a local expert. Fortunately we are blessed to have one of the best in India – Anjeli Pawar, a qualified social worker and law graduate with experience of finding 40 mothers.
8) Our adoptions were not adoptions. Under Indian law we were not legally adopted, we were placed into guardianship with foreigners. We were then taken abroad and adopted in another country.
9) Most adoptees do not have their original birth certificates, nor the actual relinquishment document. Most have only an affidavit from the orphanage, stating the date of birth and the abandonment, as well as the court order which doesn`t give details about the parents.
10) The relinquishment document, which should contain the name and address of the mother, is neither with the Indian court file, nor with the adoptive parents, nor CARA (which only came into existence in 1995) nor the adoption agency nor the authorities in the receiving country.
Our original identity was de-facto erased.
11) The orphanages are usually not cooperative. They may give a first name, maybe a surname, a religion and the area – if you are lucky. They rarely show you all the files that they have. Most of them don’t even know what files they are required to keep.
12) The orphanages and adoption agencies do not have experience, interest or capacity to carry out searches. And considering that most of them they have been involved in unlawful adoptions, it would be a conflict of interest for them to get involved in searches.
13) The adoption agencies believe that searches stop unwed mothers from “giving up” their children to them. They claim that if the babies were not adopted they would be literally thrown into the garbage. Therefore, they often have no interest in assisting adoptees.
14) If the adoption agency did indeed do something wrong in the adoption process, they definitely would not want that to come out.
15) The Indian government authorities have neither the budget, motivation nor the experience to carry out searches.