KOLKATA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity (MoC) are ending their adoption services in India after new government rules making it easier for single, divorced, and separated people to adopt children, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development's new guidelines not only uphold the rights of individuals to adopt, but provide for monitoring to ensure children's homes and orphanages do not discriminate against prospective parents.
The MoC, which was founded by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa in 1950, said it disagreed with single parent adoptions and had therefore "voluntarily given up" its recognised status to run 18 adoption centres, housing hundreds of children in India.
"The sisters think a single parent will not be able to give full-time care to a child because he or she will have to go out for work. They will have to leave the child under the care of someone who is not a parent," said Sunita Kumar, an MoC spokeswoman.
"The sisters are only following the system founded by Mother Teresa. Under no circumstances will they ignore that system. They have accepted this (end of adoption services) as the will of God," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to Kumar, 537 children were adopted from MoC centres in states such as New Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand and Bihar in 2014-15.
The remaining children, all aged under five years old, will be handed over to authorities for adoption. Disabled orphans will remain in the care of the MoC, she added.
The MoC consists of over 4,000 nuns who provide food and shelter to neglected and marginalised people in 134 countries across the world. These include lepers, street children, orphans, refugees, former sex workers and the disabled.
There are at least 20 million orphans in India, according to a 2011 study by the SOS Children's Village. Yet, only a few thousand children are adopted annually, say activists.
India's minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi said the new rules are aimed streamlining and speeding up the cumbersome, bureaucratic adoption process where it can take up to four years to adopt a child.
"The Ministry recognises the good work done by organisations like Missionaries of Charity," said a government statement.
"However, it is reiterated that the new guidelines, prepared after an elaborate consultation process, have to be followed by all child care institutions involved in the process of adoption."
Reporting by Sujoy Dhar. Writing by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org