Un­feel­ing US agen­cies con­fis­cate chil­dren from In­dian par­ents

The Sunday Guardian - - Front Page - Ad­ver­tis­ing Query 9555309181 ts­gadvt@sun­day-guardian.com Sub­scrip­tion Query 9650510835 ts­g­subs@sun­day-guardian.com SID­DHARTH TI­WARI NEW DELHI

Young In­dian cou­ples trav­el­ling to the United States on short to mid-term job as­sign­ments are in­creas­ingly fac­ing the me­nace of child con­fis­ca­tion by the coun­try’s child pro­tec­tion agen­cies, who wrongly ac­cuse them of abuse. The “child abuse” is de­ter­mined us­ing the con­tro­ver­sial Shaken Baby Syn­drome (SBS) in­di­ca­tor, the ve­rac­ity of which is con­tested.

Su­ranya Ai­yar, a NewDelhi based lawyer, who has been pro­vid­ing coun­sel and aid to In­dian fam­i­lies in the US, Nor­way and other coun­tries to help them get back their con­fis­cated chil­dren, re­cently sub­mit­ted a “Re­port on In­dian and In­dia-Ori­gin Chil­dren Con­fis­cated by the United States Child Pro­tec­tion Agen­cies” to the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs. Based on her ex­ten­sive case study of 12 In­dian fam­i­lies, who were falsely ac­cused of child abuse, her re­port sheds light on the US agen­cies’ many bi­ases and flawed method­ol­ogy. The re­port wants a travel ad­vi­sory to be is­sued to young In­dian fam­i­lies mov­ing to the US of pos­si­ble con­fis­ca­tion of their chil­dren as, in most cases, the vic­tim fam­i­lies are not aware of what might goad the child pro­tec­tion agen­cies to ini­ti­ate ac­tion against them.

“Every year, the chil­dren of many In­dian fam­i­lies are snatched by the au­thor­i­ties, based on false ac­cu­sa­tions. They lose their chil­dren to fos­ter care homes and have to fight long le­gal bat­tles against pros­e­cu­tors, in­ves­ti­ga­tors and child pro­tec­tion so­cial work­ers, who have cul­tural bi­ases against In­dian fam­i­lies,” Su­ranya Ai­yar told The Sun­day Guardian. Talk­ing ex­clu­sively to The Sun­day Guardian on the find- ings of Ai­yar’s re­port, noted le­gal ex­perts, doc­tors, re­searchers and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists al­leged that the US child pro­tec­tion agen­cies were bi­ased and used flawed tech­niques to de­tect abuse. They said that the use of SBS, also known as Abu­sive Head Trauma (AHT), as a cred­i­ble in­di­ca­tor of child abuse is not up­held by sci­ence, and finds ac­cep­tance in the sys­tem be­cause of a full-fledged ad­vo­cacy group. Ex­perts were unan­i­mous in their view that even though In­dian par­ents find a way to fight the sys­tem and get back their chil­dren, they have to go through enor­mous or­deal in a for­eign land, with no fam­ily sup­port and lim­ited re­sources.

Ac­cord­ing to Ai­yar’s re­port, In­dian par­ents of­ten face “sys­tem­atic cul­tural bi­ases” by the in­ves­ti­ga­tors and the hos­pi­tals. Hos­pi­tals al­legedly deny records to de­lay the case, while in­ves­ti­ga­tors have prej­u­dices against In­dian par­ents. In­ves­tiga- tors, child pro­tec­tion so­cial work­ers and even school staff are man­dated to re­port to child pro­tec­tion agen­cies if they no­tice any mi­nor in­jury or some dis­com­fort in the child. Many times, even if a child is gasp­ing for breath due to some med­i­cal con­di­tion, it is re­ported as sus­pected abuse. More­over, co-sleep­ing (baby sleep­ing in the same bed as par­ents), ab­sence of ad­e­quate toys, lack of cribs, and even the child be­ing noisy are all ac- counted to “poor or in­ap­pro­pri­ate par­ent­ing” and used to es­tab­lish the “in­ca­pa­bil­ity of the par­ents to raise the child ac­cord­ing to the US stan­dards”. “In­dian par­ents are ex­tremely child-ori­ented and that is why one way or the other they man­age to find the right peo­ple who can put up a strong de­fence in court.

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