An option for those not ready to parent a child

Adoption: A newborn infant was abandoned in Changzamtog in Thimphu last month.

The body of the infant, wrapped in a white cloth, was probably disposed of in a trash bin, according to police.

Forensic specialist, Dr Norbu, said that the full term baby was a day or two old when it was found.

“It seems that the baby was kept in a cold place for a long time as the body was very cold,” Dr Norbu said. “I don’t think the baby was born in a hospital because no medical intervention signs like cannula on the infant’s body was found,” he added.

“Since we don’t have an autopsy facility in the country, we cannot say if the baby was stillborn. If it’s born alive then the cause of death is also not known.”

The body was handed over to the Thimphu thromde.

There have been other such abandonments in the past.

However, according to the National Commission for Women and Children’s (NCWC) legal officer, Ugyen Tshomo, whoever found the baby or those who reported the incident to the police usually wanted to adopt the baby.

While adoption should be the last resort, it is an option for a woman who is experiencing an unexpected pregnancy and not ready to parent the child.

NCWC is the only adoption service provider in the country. NCWC’s director Kunzang Lhamu said that giving a child for adoption should be the last resort because the biological parents are the best for any child.

The commission ensures that the adoption is made in the best interest of the child and all adoption cases are viewed from this point of approach, she added.

Legal officer Ugyen Tshomo said that considering placing one’s child for adoption for any parent is not an easy decision and carrying the legal requirements of adoption is not easy either.

But Ugyen Tshomo said the commission has ensured that it is easy for applicants considering to place their child for  an adoption and also for those who wants to adopt a child since the enactment of the Child Adoption Act of Bhutan in 2012.

When an infant is abandoned and finds it way to the NCWC, it is the duty of the child welfare officer to make every possible effort to locate the biological parents and guardian. In the event such effort fails, the child may be recommended for adoption. However, there is no child welfare officer with the commission currently. Therefore the legal unit with the commission carries out the work.

Before taking the child for foster care, the police or a gewog however has to write a letter to the commission declaring that the infant was abandoned.

The infant is given for foster care to those who found the baby and ones considering  to adopt a child before giving away for adoption. “Giving a baby for adoption immediately is not possible. We have to study the case before giving the child for adoption,” Ugyen Tshomo said.

She said that in all the cases of an abandoned infant so far, there was always somebody to provide foster care to the child. “In future if there is no one to foster care the abandoned infant then we may have to coordinate as we don’t have a shelter home for abandoned newborns.”

Infants and children until 18 can be given for adoption and it is not restricted to couples in case of domestic adoption.

All applicants should meet the requirements of the Act. Any Bhutanese above the age of 30, who is successful in producing all required documents, could apply for adoption with the commission.

The potential adopter should be of good moral character, financially secure, not have been convicted of a crime, is capable of support and care for child. There should also be an age difference of at least 15 years between the adopting parent and the child.

The Act states that an inter-country adoption may be considered as an alternative means for a child for whom a suitable adopting parent cannot be found in the country (domestic adoption).

Kunzang Lhamo said that domestic adoption is preferred because monitoring and evaluating the adopted child’s condition is much easier. International adoption is allowed only with the citizens of those countries that have Bhutanese missions or embassies.

“For uniformity and the applicant’s ease, the commission has come up with some forms and checklists,” Ugyen Tshomo said. “We call the applicants only as and when required so mode of communication is also in place.”

The adopting parties are also given pre-adoption counselling to educate on the adoption rules and regulations. The child to be adopted is also included in the counselling if he or she is above 12.

“This is based on the criminal liability age which is 13 because children above 12 will have opinion and can express their opinion,” she added.

If the applicant has produced all the required documents, the legal unit with the commission then processes the adoption.

The commission evaluates and monitors the child’s condition after adoption on a regular basis for a few years to assure the condition of the adopted child is good.

After the commission processes all documents, the case is forwarded to a dzongkhag court, which then completes the legalities.

This year, records with the commission show that six children have been adopted so far. Of the 79 adoptions since 2007, 17 were international adoptions (inter-country).

Dechen Tshomo

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