When I was in the US, I almost felt like I went through a crash course called, “Medicaid and Assisted Living for Dummies.” This week’s crash course could be titled “Adoption in Latin America for Dummies.” I have been doing lots of research about adoption in Latin America and made many phone calls to various adoption agencies. Our openness and desire to adopt a child internationally has intensified, particularly in Latin America if possible, but were are still only in the exploration stage. One thing that peaked my interest was that two weeks ago, during our flight from Philadelphia to Detroit, we talked with a Caucasian woman who had adopted a little boy from Guatemala (before the program shut down). I couldn’t take my eyes off of that little precious boy, and as I admired his jet-black hair, gorgeous coffee-colored skin, and almost-black eyes I was reminded of my childhood, of the beautiful children of Latin America.
Children from Shalom Children’s Home, El Salvador, 2004 (where I was a volunteer)
At La Casa de Mi Padre Children’s Home, El Salvador, 2010 (we visited on our honeymoon)
How do you get from thinking about adoption to bringing home a child? There are many things to think over and decisions to make. First of all, how in the world do you choose an agency among so many? Also, there are many questions for the couple: How long must you be married? What are the country’s income requirements? Plus, there are lots of questions about the children and the adoption process: What ages of children are available? What age of a child are you open to adopting? Would you take a sibling group? Would you take a special needs child? How long must you stay in the country when you a child is referred to you? Are there safety concerns in the country you will be traveling to?
This week I have learned that adopting from Latin America is not easy ! Some countries, like Guatemala, have closed their programs completely even though the orphanages are teeming with children. I spoke with the director of a Delaware-based agency that deals with adoptions from El Salvador (my birth country), and the situation there is extremely bleak, frustrating, and depressing. She shared with me that the Salvadoran government is making it extremely difficult for foreigners to adopt children. Things are so slow that we cannot even consider El Salvador. (At least agencies are being honest and not leading people on.) On top of long waits and little hope, it seems that in several countries a couple must be open to an older child (over five) or a special needs child in the “Waiting Angels” programs.
What would adoption look like for us? Our situation is pretty complicated – a U.S. citizen born in Latin America married to a German planning to live in Japan long-term. What agency would even take us on? Assuming we find an agency step one would be to have a home study with a social worker. I assumed that this might be one of the trickiest parts. However, I talked to the director of an agency called Adopt Abroad, an agency which has social workers based in Japan, who serves military families who are interesting in adopting while living abroad. She said that once we are settled in Japan, we should get in touch and get the ball rolling. They facilitate adoptions in many countries, and Carol (the director) mentioned their newest programs are Cambodia and Colombia.
Colombia! The other day, I learned that out of all the countries in Latin America, Colombia is one country that is very open to adoption with an established reputation. The orphans who can be adopted range from three months and up. That definitely peaked my interest! Yesterday, I spent a while reading blogs about Americans who had adopted from Colombia. The kids were so incredibly cute that I was practically melting in my seat. If you are interested, here are a few of the coolest blogs:
http://www.thefoxesblog.com/(Adopted a little girl THIS WEEK)
http://mysistersjar.wordpress.com/ (Adopted a little girl, their adorable “princess”)
http://roadtocolombia.blogspot.com/ (Adopted three kids)
http://www.backtobogota.com (Adopted two kids)
http://adoption.ourlittlemcfamily.com/ (Adopted five kids at once)
I have no clue if we will adopt internationally one day or not, but I really hope that we do. Adoption is one of the most beautiful and tangible displays of God’s love that I can possibly imagine. Sometimes when I think of joy of being an adopted child, I wish that we could afford to adopt an orphan from every continent in the world. We could be the “Brangelina” of Japan! By the way, I should mention that adoption is almost unheard of in Japan. It’s been interesting explaining to people my life story in a country where people almost never want to break the family blood lines.
Here are some quotes about Americans and adoption to close this blog entry:
“About four in ten Americans have considered adopting a child at one time in their lives. This equates to about 81.5 million adults. Considering there are 134,000 children in foster care awaiting families, these children would all have a home today if just 0.2% (1 in 500) of these adults actually pursued and completed the adoption process.” (National Adoption Attitudes Survey, June 2002).
78% of Americans think the country should be doing more to encourage adoption. (National Adoption Attitudes Survey, June 2002).
Americans have a very positive opinion about adoptive parents. They are seen as lucky by 94% of Americans. (National Adoption Attitudes Survey, June 2002)
with Estela, one of my favorite kids at Shalom Home, El Salvador, 2004
With Matthias on our honeymoon in Central America, May 2010