A refuge mainly for mothers and children

By Hiranthi Fernando

On November 23, the National Child Protection Authority Chairman together with some officials arrived at Prem Nivesa, a home for pregnant mothers and children and wanted to see their files. The police were also called in. They removed 17 original files and registers and even the log book, said the Regional Superior of the Missionaries of Charity. TV cameras captured it all.

Prem Nivesa, at Rawatawatte, Moratuwa, is a branch of the Missonaries of Charity, the religious order established by Nobel Prize laureate Mother Teresa in India. They have eight homes in Sri Lanka, with 57 sisters, Sri Lankan as well as foreign. While Prem Nivesa caters to mothers and children, most of the other homes are for the needy and rejected elders.

The sister in charge of adoptions who has been serving in Sri Lanka for 25 years said Prem Nivesa was authorized to undertake local adoptions by the Department of Probation and Child Care in 1989. Shanthi Niwasa, their Regional House was given authorization for foreign adoptions around 2001. The section for pregnant mothers is registered with the Social Services Department while the children’s sections are registered with the Department of Probation and Child Care.

Prem Nivesa has several sections housing pregnant mothers, mothers with babies, children without mothers and handicapped children. “We accept and give shelter to unmarried mothers, irrespective of race or religion,” the sisters said. “We provide the necessary medical care and other needs. Many mothers after the baby is born, come to us and ask to give the baby for adoption as they are unable to care for them. Some go back to the family with the babies.”

The home registers the couples who request babies for adoption. All adoptions are handled legally, through the Department of Probation and Child Care, they said. The details of the adoptive parents are taken and when a suitably matched baby is born they are informed. If they want the baby, they are advised to consult a lawyer who handles adoptions who will then file the case in courts.

The couple is interviewed by the Probation Department and the report is sent to courts. On the date set for adoption, the adoptive parents have to be present as well as the natural mother who has to confirm that she wishes to give up the baby. She hands over the baby in the presence of the judge. The sister says, in courts the lawyers ask whether the mother received any money.

In the case of foreign adoptions, it is usually children who are rejected by local adoptive parents who are offered to foreign couples. Although local adoptive parents are not ready to accept sick children, many foreign couples are willing to do so as they have more facilities for treating these children. The sisters inform the Department of Probation and Child Care that such a baby is available and send in the medical reports. According to the Hague Convention, foreign adoptions have to go through an organization or agency approved in that country. The agent conducts the home study and informs the Probation Department.

The parents are requested to come for an interview. If they are happy with the baby, a letter of allocation is issued. It is on this letter that Prem Nivesa proceeds with the adoption.

Foreign adoptive parents have to send in regular reports of the child to the Probation Department and the Home. Recently, a boy with four holes in his heart was taken by a doctor to Germany. A boy suffering from Thalassaemia was taken by a doctor’s family to Italy for treatment, paying a bond for the custody of the child, guaranteeing his return. After three years, the family came back to legally adopt the child.

The Regional Superior declared that they are not allowed to accept any money from adoptive parents and they adhere to that rule. They sometimes receive help from benefactors who provide alms in memory of a loved one and other needs of the home. However, they cannot manage on the donations they receive in Sri Lanka and get help from their mother house in Kolkata.

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