Adopting a special-needs child can come with its own complexities, but there is nothing nobler than opening your heart to someone who needs you.
As an adoption counsellor, I have the humble privilege of talking to a wide spectrum of adoptive families both before and after the adoption. Some ask me about the adoption process, some are curious about bonding, and others wonder how to reveal the adoption to their extended family. Personally what warms my heart is when people discuss special needs adoption or older child adoption with me. Not too long ago, a couple who have biological sons talked to me about adopting a daughter with special needs. The line between personal and professional blurred as I counselled them and also shared stories of my own daughters’ adoptions (one with a special need).
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A few weeks after the counselling session, the couple went ahead and adopted a five-year old girl who was in the special needs category due to an amputated leg. When this beautiful girl was a baby, the cruel inhumanity that millions of girls face in our country had caused her to lose one of her legs. After that, she was raised in a children’s shelter who took care of her and put her in the legal adoption pool.
This is no small feat.
Thousands of shelters across India do not put children in the legal adoption pool, thus denying them a chance to reach a family. But a good shelter and a determined couple chose a new life for this child. At five years of age, Harini left the shelter and came home to loving parents, caring brothers, and a life full of opportunities.
Harini and her new family had a lot to learn together. Harini discovered her brothers’ interests and they learnt how to share their lives with her. Harini started to learn how to walk with a prosthetic leg while her parents learnt how to keep her safe when the kids are running around. As with most adoptive families, the bonding happened quietly and consistently, until one day everyone realises how intertwined and amazingly close their lives have become.
However, one thing continued to concern Harini’s mother.
How would she tell Harini about her past? About losing her leg? So she started with stories. She started telling Harini about girls and women who had challenging lives which made them stronger and more compassionate. She told Harini about how a tough life can
change with love and there is always hope. She also thought about how she will guide Harini through her teenage years down the road.
Harini’s leg makes her special because it gives her the chance to be different, to understand the good and the bad in the world, and hopefully one day to extend support to another child who may need her. For me, it gives me renewed faith in our country and people. Even if a few of us make the same choices that Harini’s adoptive parents have made, it would be the beginning of a new life for thousands of abandoned and orphaned children with special needs in India.
(The child’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.)
Smriti Gupta is an adoption writer and a child rights campaigner, who is currently working to ensure that there is a functional path for abandoned and orphaned children in India to reach the legal adoption pool.
First Published: IST