The changing policy narrative and practice dilemma of adoption in India – a social work perspective

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Adoption policy and practice in India have evolved over the last thirty years with an emphasis on domestic adoption over intercountry. The revised adoption policy introduced in 2015 apparently aims to accelerate adoption numbers by limiting the interface between prospective parents, children and social workers and less room for professional discretion has raised ethical concerns about adoption practice in the country.

This study is based on empirical qualitative research conducted between 2017-2021 to explore how the evolving socio-legal processes involved in adoption influence the process of ‘doing adoptive family’. Along with adoptive parents, it brings in the voices of social workers – who play a central role in the adoption process – to understand the interactive relationship between adoption policy, social work and adoptive family practices. Drawing on the conceptual framework of ‘doing and displaying family’ (Finch, 2007 and Morgan, 2011), this research explores how social workers and adoptive parents negotiate their requirements while following the statutory process to practice adoptive family lives.

The research draws on the in-depth accounts of eight adoptive parents and four social workers practicing within the ‘closed model’ of adoption in a changing socio-legal environment. Following a narrative inquiry process, the research illuminates the lived experiences of people who do and experience adoption using methods of generating stories that enabled to explore the complex, multi-layered, nuanced understanding of doing adoptive family lives in an evolving socio-legal context (Clandinin, 2007; Riessman, 2008). As adoption is a relatively under-researched area of social and family life in India, this study used an inductive exploratory research strategy. By employing an interpretive narrative approach the analysis moves beyond descriptions of people’s experiences and towards a deeper understanding of the meanings participants attach to adoptive family lives and ways in which these meanings influences their practices. It considers content of the story as being of interest, while paid specific attention to how each story is constructed. This process provides insights into the social function of the narratives and allows exploration of the connections between participants’ lives and the wider context and unfolds the complexities and ethical dilemma of the day-to-day experiences of actors involved.

The findings suggest that the procedural changes appear to be driven by the shifting power dynamics between the state and social workers, which is an integral part of the change. By relocate the power structure the state aims to maximise the number of adoptions by placing as many children as possible without regard for social and cultural dynamics. Adoption promoted under the new policy seems to lack a crucial understanding of the subjective experiences of all the actors involved. Such process is apparently surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty that has the potential to affect children’s wellbeing and their relationship with adoptive parents. The research suggest that adoption policy and practice are to be viewed within a wider socio-cultural context and the perspectives of everyone impacted by adoption should be fully engaged in policy and practice dialogue to ensure the best interests of all the parties involved.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2023
EventThe European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF) - Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sept 202315 Sept 2023


ConferenceThe European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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