Finding families for the abandoned

As we all can see, children in India are denied even the very basic right to family under various
circumstances. Whether it is child labour or broken families or abusive conditions of life, children have been forced to compromise their childhood and their right to a loving and caring family. Karna Prayag Trust strives to change this situation in its own way, focusing specifically on children who are abandoned.

A small child was found abandoned at a hospital, soon after her birth. Her parents disappeared, making it impossible to trace as they left behind a fictious address. The child was then brought to Karna Prayag Trust, where she was named Sita and given in adoption for a childless couple of Indian origin from Germany. Seven years later, when Sita came back to the Trust to see where she had come from, another girl called Meena was befriended by the family. Eventually, Meena was also adopted by the couple as Sita insisted in having a sister. Today, Sita is a web designer, married, and has a daughter named Tara. Recently, Sita and her husband came to the Trust to gift Tara with a brother. This is just one of the stories that Karna Prayag has made in the lives of people across generations. Formally registered in 2003, Karna Prayag Trust in Chennai has been serving as a reception home for children who are abandoned under different circumstances– at hospitals soon after birth, at railway stations, shopping malls, bus stands, etc. “The Police, Government hospitals and even individuals bring to us these tiny helpless little babies, who have been abandoned by their parents for one reason or another,” says Sheela Jayanthi, Director of Karna Prayag Trust.

“It all started in 1980 as a unit to receive and care for infants who were brought for admission to the Chatnath Homes SOS Children’s Village orphanage in Tambaram. Unexpectedly, we soon had couples knocking at our doors requesting to take a child in adoption. Why restrict a child to institutional care when there was a family waiting to accept the child as their own?” adds Sheela.

Karna Prayag Trust valued the gift of family to each child, and so began working on an adoption process. The Trust was declared as a fit institution by the Juvenile Welfare Board in 1992, and was authorized to carry out in-country and inter-country adoptions. Upon reception of infants, they are taken care of until they are ready for adoption, by a committed team that consists of a Neonatal Pediatrician, Nutritionist and Occupational Physiotherapists. On receiving an infant, the Trust simultaneously handles the task of personal care for the child and processing papers to establish Indian identity of the child, followed by formal papers like relevant court orders, registered birth affidavit, passport and other documentation through the relevant legal and Government systems. The child’s medical problems are also dealt with extreme care and expertise. Every child has a medical record that is updated periodically, covering the time from reception to adoption.

With couples wishing to adopt, the Trust registers them and processes their adoption papers through home study, counseling, personal interviews and identification of the right child. These processes are managed by a team of social workers, counselors and an adoption committee. The children are first placed on foster care with the family until all the requisite clearances are obtained, and then the process is completed with legalization. Every child’s story here moves your heart. How they find their way to Karna Prayag is another sobre rendition. For instance, Bina was a child rescued from a shopping bag that was checked in safe keeping. The security had contacted the police after waiting an entire day to see if someone came up to claim the child. The police finally brought Bina to the Trust. Today, this child means everything for a joint family in Chennai.

Karna Prayag Trust embarked on new responsibilities as the needs emerged. They reached out to more people who needed care – pregnant women who had nowhere to go and young women who sought training in infant care. “We started educational programs for young mothers on affordable nutrition, simple hygiene and immunization routines. We publicized the adoption option and legal procedures that were involved, and also on the importance of girl children.”

In 2007, the Trust started a day care centre to focus on integral development of pre-school and after-school children of working mothers from the neighbourhood. Functioning on all working days, the centre has a programme worked out to meet the physical, cognitive and social development of the children through play way method. In addition to all these ongoing activities, the trust makes it a point to bring annually prospective parents and parents with adopted children together, giving an opportunity for the audience to discuss out stereotypes and taboos pertaining to adoption. Having learnt this holistic approach devised by the trust’s team and the difference it has been making in the last few decades, it is no surprise that they are a recipient of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Award for Social Service in the field of Child Welfare. Their services continue to add smiles in the lives of abandoned children and childless couples alike.

An intake of more than 1000 infants, mostly girls who are placed in adoption, with a few taken back by the biological families is a record that any onlooker might recollect with awe!