Meet Aditya Tiwari, India’s youngest single Dad to adopt a child with special needs as he speaks to Padme about how his life changed with the arrival of his son Avnish, the mindsets around adoption and how love and care made tremendous improvements in his son’s health.
Three years ago, Aditya Tiwari, a software engineer based in Indore, made it to the front pages of several newspapers. The reason this seemingly ordinary techie gained his fame was something that was unprecedented – at the age of 28, he became the youngest single parent to adopt a child with special needs in India.
“I had been to an orphanage to celebrate my father’s birthday,” says Aditya recalling the first time he saw Avnish, who would later become his son, lying on a bed in a corner. The caretakers informed him that nobody had come forth to adopt this child, because of him being a child who belonged to the ‘special needs’ category. “[Avnish] was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, two holes in his heart, an IQ of less than 50, and also faced other problems like thyroid and constipation. The staff at the orphanage said, “Aisa baccha leke apni zindagi kaun kharab karega? (Who will take such a child and spoil their own life?)”
To Aditya, the decision of wanting to adopt 5-month-old, who looked up at him from his bed in the corner, was pretty spontaneous. But he was met with criticism and dismissal from everybody. “ ‘We cannot give you the child, because you’re not married’ is what they told me.
“At that time, I didn’t know much about the procedure of adoption. I had a Monday to Friday job and I had to focus on my career…I had thought if I wanted to adopt a child, I could. I told the people at the orphanage, ‘You give the child to me when I get married’ and all of them laughed at me,” recalls Aditya. But the connection that he felt with the child made him travel hundreds of kilometres every weekend just to meet him for a couple of minutes.
“Then one day, it clicked in my mind that I have to go and read [adoption guidelines]. Then I found out that I could adopt a child as a single parent, but the only thing was the age constraint. The minimum age for a single parent was 30 years. When there is no criteria required to have a biological child, then why for adoption? There is no difference. I approached the concerned departments…the national leaders, Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), even the Prime Minister.
Even when everybody, including his family and friends, was wary about his decision and discouraged him from going ahead, calling it ‘a waste of time and effort’, Aditya was unfazed. ‘Nobody will marry you’, they had told him. “The problem with us is we are more worried about what people think, not what we think for ourselves,” he says. “When I got the custody of my child on 1st January 2016, people slowly started changing their opinions.”
Support and infrastructure
“We don’t have a good support system…[schools] are expensive and the special arrangements that you have to make will cost you further. Laws are not implemented effectively and the stakeholders in the adoption ecosystem are not very familiar with them. CARA says there are only around 2,000 children legally free for adoption, but there are more than 30 million orphans in the country. I am sure a large percentage of these children are specially abled.”
Love Paves the Way
“My life has changed ever since Avnish came into it. I see the world in a different way, I see people in a different way. I believe every life has value. (…) I did not know much when I brought him home initially, but I needed to spend time with him to understand him, and for Avnish to get to bond with me. I was told that the child will never be able to walk on his own feet. But within six months of doing home therapy, he started walking without support, one of the holes in his heart healed by itself, his constipation was brought under control and he started attending a normal school. In fact, Avnish’s first word was ‘papa’ and he is now 5 years old, and goes to school with other the other children,” he adds, talking about Avnish.
Mindsets and approaches towards Special Needs Adoption
“One has to be emotionally and physically capable to take on a responsibility like this. We have defined a category as ‘disabled’ we have built the world for our comfort, not theirs.” he says “even if someone wants to adopt a child because they want to do something good in the society, it’s fine as long as they take care of the child. In metropolitan cities, adoptions are becoming increasingly common, but in rural areas, people are still reluctant to accept a child that is not related to them by blood into their family. Even while adopting, everyone wants kids who are between 0-4 years of age so they can mould them the way they want. Society doesn’t accept single parents who adopt children with special needs either. We are not ready to accept anything. Who is going to benefit from this?”
Avnish Welfare Society
Aditya is also the founder of the Avnish Social Welfare Society, through which provides counselling to parents who have a child with special needs to help them through the process of bringing up the child, while spreading awareness and information. He also counsels parents who are looking to adopt children and guides prospective adoptive parents through the process. He regularly travels around the country working to spread awareness and help people prepare for adoption.
A Telephonic interview done by Lahari K.V. (Mount Carmel College, Intern)