Over 80 per cent of children adopted in the country in 2017-18 were below the age of two and there were not many kids of this age group legally free for adoption, according to official data.
In 2017-18, 2,537 children below the age of two were adopted while the number above two years was just 597 children, the data given by the Central Adoption Resource Authority, the apex adoption body in the country, reflected.
In the age bracket of 2-4 years, 228 children were adopted; in the 4-6 years group, 143 children were adopted and above the age of 6 years, 226 children were adopted.
"More than 8,000 childcare institutions registered with CARA have primarily more than 90 per cent older children (above 5-6 years of age). And domestically there are very few couples who want to adopt older children," said CARA CEO Lt Col (retd) Deepak Kumar.
Kumar said that they then try to place older children in foster care.
"We know that we would not be able to place older children in adoption very easily and instead of letting them grow in a child care institution, it is better if they can be placed with some family in foster care. So basically foster care programme has been made to enable such older children to be placed in a family as they are as it is difficult to place them for adoption," Kumar told PTI.
But the foster care system in India has not been taken up in a manner as it should be as parents here too prefer younger children, he said.
"Many of them are treating foster care as a shortcut of adopting younger children where they keep a younger child with them over a period of time and then apply for adoption of the child," he said, noting that child care institutes need to be more careful in such cases.
"The issue is that more and more parents want to adopt younger children but we don't have children of that age group legally free for adoption," Kumar said, adding that CARA has around 20,000 couples registered for adoption but they don't have children in the age group as desired by these prospective parents.
According to the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS), there is just one child available for every nine adoptive parents in India waiting to take a child home.
"As of May 2017, there were 15,200 prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) while child care institutions (CCIs) have only 1,766 children in their care across the country. Of these, 1,279 are children with special needs," the CARINGS data said.
While the inter-country adoption showed an opposite trend where 389 children adopted out of 718 were over the age of two.
"The main reason behind it is that only those children who could not find a home in India are put for inter-country adoption. We first try that children get adopted domestically and only those children who are not able to get placed in India are then kept for adoption in other countries," Kumar said.
"So in many cases, parents registered for inter-country adoption mainly get older children or children with special needs," he added.
Another reason due to which people in inter-country adoptions are more open towards adopting older children and children with special needs is due to better government support, he said.
Talking about children with special needs, Kumar said last year, CARA was able to place just 47 such children out of 3200 for adoption and on an average they are able to place just 50 children with special needs up for adoption domestically.