Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Colombia Suspends Adoptions---Sort Of

Update July 2, 2013:  The State Department put out this alert on July 1st regarding the "shut down" of Colombian adoptions.  It's not new news.  It's just a clear statement from ICBF.  

Alert:Colombia Moratorium Update

The Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF) formally announced several important changes in Colombia’s management of intercountry adoptions.

Beginning July 15, 2013, ICBF will no longer accept new intercountry adoption applications from non-Colombian citizens living abroad interested in adopting a child under 6 years and 11 months old, unless ICBF considers the child to have special characteristics or needs.  Families who are considering adopting a healthy child in this age range should ensure that they have filed their initial application with ICBF no later than the July 15, 2013 deadline.  Visit ICBF website to learn what documents ICBF requires as part of the initial application.  ICBF has indicated this moratorium will last at least two years.
The Department of State expects that adoption processing will continue to operate normally in all other respects.  Families who have already been accepted by ICBF as prospective adoptive parents for a healthy child less than 6 years and 11 months old will maintain their place on the existing waiting list and ICBF will continue to match and finalize adoptions for these children.  Families interested in adopting older children or any child identified by ICBF as being more difficult to place because of special characteristics or needs should not experience any changes as a result of this decision.  Furthermore, ICBF has indicated that any family currently on the waiting list which is open to adopting a different category of child should work with their adoption service provider to let ICBF know.  Visit icbf.gov.co to learn more about the 8,000 children with special characteristics or needs who are currently awaiting adoption.
In addition to this moratorium, ICBF has also implemented a number of changes affecting adoption service providers and private adoption houses.  Effective immediately, adoption service providers may no longer charge prospective adoptive families for “humanitarian assistance” programs as part of an adoption contract.  In addition, ICBF has formally reminded prospective adoptive parents, adoption service providers, and private adoption houses of its ban on donations by any family or entity involved in an ongoing adoption prior to the completion of that adoption.  ICBF is concerned that these payments and donations jeopardize the credibility of Colombia’s intercountry adoption process.  The Department of State expects that ICBF may take adverse action against any individuals or entities that do not honor these requirements.

For updates you may email the Bogota U.S. Embassy at:IVBogota@state.gov, Attn Adoptions or refer to adoption.state.gov for updates.

A few weeks ago, the director of ICBF resigned.  (ICBF is the Child Welfare Institute in Colombia.)  Lots of people in the adoption community were anxiously waiting to see how this would affect Colombian adoptions.  Now we know.  On Thursday, it was announced that Colombia would stop taking applications from foreign families seeking to adopt children under the age of 6 who do not have special needs and do not have siblings.

A little background:  
During the 80s and 90s (and into this century), Colombia was a baby factory for families in Europe (and some in the US) seeking to adopt infants.  Private adoption houses were created.  Pregnant young and/or poor woman could come to the house and receive room, board, and medical treatment.  The babies were then adopted out to foreign families.  Because families were already in place before the child was born, these children were adopted at very young ages.  

This all began to change greatly when Colombia began to actively seek biological relatives to care for children instead of just lining up foreign families for them.  The process takes time and children are becoming older and older before being released for adoption.  Families are still looking for healthy, young children, though and the waiting list has become VERY long.  

Just a side note:  The fact that the list is becoming so long means Colombians are taking care of Colombian children.  This is a good thing!  Colombia has progressed as a nation in the last few decades and is now much more able to care for their own children.  In an ideal world, international adoption wouldn't exist.  Children would be cared for in their own country and culture.  (Just my personal opinion.  I'm sure there are other opinions out there.)  

The current situation:
There are almost 400 Colombian families and about 3,500 foreign families on the waiting list for a healthy child under the age of 6 who does not have siblings.  

I met two families in country that had waited 5+ years for their children.  (Both of the families were European.)  I had a long talk with one of them.  When they started the process, they were not told that it would take that long.  So many things in their lives had changed in 5 years.  Their jobs had changed; their home had changed; their position in life had changed.   They had repeatedly paid to have documents updated; repeatedly paid for updated home studies; repeatedly put their lives on hold waiting for a referral.  While they were thrilled to finally have a son, they insisted they would have chosen a different program if they had known they would wait so long.  

Here's the thing:  Up until Thursday, agencies were continuing to recruit new families into their Colombia programs.  (These programs are different than the waiting child program that I was in.)  These families complete home studies and dossiers that are then sent to Colombia.  Colombian officials take time and resources to review these dossiers and then give the families a number on a very, very long list.  This ties up staff that could be reviewing dossiers of families hoping to adopt waiting children.  Children who already exist and need families!  

I have no problem with people who want to adopt a young, healthy child.  Not everyone is called to adopt a child with Down syndrome or a teenager.  I get that.  I get the desire to adopt an infant or toddler.  But, I think the majority of a country's resources should be devoted to a child that currently needs a home and not a child that will be born five years from now.  (Again.  Just my personal opinion.  I'm sure there are other opinions out there.)  

I applaud ICBF's decision to suspend applications.  Spend your time and energy on the children who need homes now and the families that have already paid thousands of dollars and waited countless months and years.  It makes sense to work on that very long list before you add to it.  It makes sense to seek family members that can care for the children.  It makes sense to focus on the waiting children.  

While I know that there are people that are scrambling to find new programs (some of which transferred to Colombia after Russia closed) and I know there are people that are very upset about this decision, it seems like a very "fair" solution to help manage a very overwhelmed system.  


  1. I agree and think your opinion on this matter is right on!

  2. Sounds like a decent move not to keep adding families to the back logged list. Quite a few country programs have limits or suspensions on the young/ healthy adoptions because the wait is so long (and there are just fewer of those kids). IT's a totally different story with older kids and kids with special needs. It's just not that common for those kids to be adopted domestically, or to have options other than a childhood spent in an institution.