Indian Govt Suspends U.S. Agency Involved in Sherin Mathews’ Adoption

Adoption agency Holt International was suspended by the Indian government for “negligence” while assessing the adoptive parents of Sherin Mathews in the United States.


The Indian government has suspended American adoption agency Holt International for “negligence” while assessing the adoptive parents of Sherin Mathews, the three-year-old girl who died in the United States.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi took the decision to suspend the authorized foreign adoption agency (AFAA), PTI reported citing government sources.

Sherin was adopted by Texas-based Indian American couple Wesley and Sini Mathews in 2016. She died in October 2017, after, according to the adoptive father, she choked when he forced her to drink milk. He was arrested by the Richardson Police department on Oct. 23, 2017 and faces charges of causing injury to a child, a first degree felony punishable by a term of five years to 99 years in prison.

“We have suspended the operations of Holt International because we found it negligent in the assessment of the adoptive parents and also in the post placement assessment of the family,” Lt. Col. Deepak Kumar, the CEO of CARA (Child Adoption Resource Authority), India’s nodal body for adoption, said, according to the news agency.

A decision on cancelling the agency’s authorization will be taken after detailed reports are received from the Indian embassy, the report said, adding that the delay in the government’s move against the adoption agency was caused by Ivanka Trump’s visit to India in November, even though the toddler’s death came to light in October. The report cited a government official as saying that India is taking a cautious approach on the issue because it does not want relations with the United States to be affected.

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj also sought a probe into the “adoption process” of Sherin Mathews in October.

CARA has also asked agencies to get the mental well-being of applicants evaluated while their adoption applications are under review. The Indian authority issued a circular in November 2017, and insisted in another circular on Dec. 20, that its global partners need to make sure that applicants wanting to adopt a child from India get their psychological health assessed by a licensed practitioner. This will help in determining their motivation for adoption, stress and frustration tolerance, decision making capabilities, future plans and emotional stability.

“It is further to clarify that the psychological evaluation shall be required for all cases in which the prospective adoptive parents (PAP’s) are yet to receive a referral,” the circular said. It added that the psychologist may include any test that is suitable for the PAPs. The evaluation will include a detailed interview by a psychologist for 30-45 minutes.

In its circular in November last year, CARA had specified, “socio psychological, including family dynamics, is a very significant aspect of Home Study Report (HSR) for determining the sustainability of the PAP’s for adopting a specific category of a child from India,” the circular said.

Kumar said last month that after taking a look at the Sherin Mathews case, it was discovered that although the AFAA had submitted follow-up reports regularly, something was still missing and it had not been noticed. “Therefore, we felt that it is important to have a psychological evaluation of parents who want to adopt a child,” Kumar added, reported PTI.

An autopsy report earlier this month revealed that Sherin Mathews died of “homicidal violence.” Richardson Police issued a statement on Jan. 3, saying that the medical examiner’s office listed the cause of the child’s death as homicide.

Details shared by the police on Dec. 5, 2017 showed that the “cold and stiff” body of Sherin was bundled at the back of the car with a bag of trash by Wesley before the body was put in a culvert by him. The information was revealed during the custody hearing of Wesley and Sini Mathews’ 4-year-old biological daughter.

Sherin’s mother, Sini Mathews, was arrested on Nov. 16, 2017. She faces charges of child endangerment and abandonment. Her bail was set at $250,000, while her husband Wesley is being held on a $1 million bond.

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