The Bihar government ordered an investigation into the adoption of a three-year-old Indian girl, Sherin Mathews, who disappeared from her Texas home a fortnight ago and her body was reportedly found in a drain on Monday.
Wesley and Sini Mathews of Richardson city adopted Sherin in June 2016 from Mother Teresa Anath Sewa Ashram, an orphanage and adoption centre run by a non-government organisation in Bihar’s Nalanda.
The girl was seven months old when a children’s welfare organisation in Gaya gave her to the orphanage in February 2015 after she was “rescued” in the Buddhist pilgrimage town, according to Amit Kumar Paswan, chairman of the NGO.
“The American couple adopted her in the presence of the superintendent of police,” he said.
But the adoption centre has been in trouble since September 7 when the social welfare department ordered its closure for several shortcomings. The order doesn’t mention the nature of deficiencies.
Sherin’s reported death compounded its problems as Nalanda district magistrate Thiyagarajan SM said a three-member team, headed by an additional district magistrate, was constituted to “ascertain if all norms of adoption were followed in this case”.
He warned of legal action against the NGO if any irregularity is found.
The centre asserted it had followed stipulated norms.
“The last inspection was done at our centre in 2016. No team visited us thereafter and we did not get any show-cause notice either … We will challenge the order in court,” said Babita Kumari, secretary of the orphanage.
She regretted giving Sherin, named Saraswati prior to her adoption, to the American couple.
“It would have been better if she had stayed with us … The child was crying inconsolably when the couple came to take her. We thought it was natural as she was suffering pangs of separation,” Kumari said.
Sherin’s 37-year-old foster father sent her to stand next to a tree behind the fence at their home around 3am as punishment for not drinking her milk on October 7, according to the arrest affidavit.
She disappeared from there and her body was found about half a mile from the house in an area frequented by coyotes. Mathews, originally from Kerala, reported her disappearance around 8am.
“Her father should not have behaved in the manner he did, especially when he has a natural daughter. Our government should press for action against him,” Kumari said.
According to her, Sherin liked milk and was quite a sport too.
“Trying to come first in an informal milk-drinking competition, she used to quickly finish the 200ml of milk we served to all children over a year old,” Kumari said.