Colombia Program Updates

Since July 20th is Colombian Independence Day, let’s talk about adoption from Colombia!

 Spence-Chapin’s fundamental belief is that Every Child Deserves A Family. Since 1994, we have been finding and preparing families to adopt children from Colombia, a Hague Convention country. Our agency is approved by Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), the central authority for inter-country adoption and we are a Hague accredited agency with over 40 years of experience in international adoption. We continue to seek families (Colombian and non-Colombian) living anywhere in the United States who are drawn to Colombia as the country to build their families and who will embrace the process of incorporating Colombian culture into the life of their family going forward.

Colombian Heritage Program for Children ages 0-9

In July of 2017, we are expanding our Colombia Program to find permanent, loving families of Colombian heritage for children in Colombia ages 0-9. Colombian adoptive parents are eligible to adopt children 0-9 years old. How do you know if you are of Colombian heritage? This includes a person who was born in Colombia or with a parent born in Colombia. The adoptive parent would provide a Colombian birth certificate, passport, or Cedula to show this heritage. The estimated wait time for child referral after dossier submission by heritage families is 12-24 months. Families of Colombian heritage may apply to adopt as follows:

  • Parents between 25-45 years old can request to adopt a child 0-4 years old or siblings where the oldest is 7 years of age
  • Parents between 46-50 years old can request to adopt a child 5-9 years old or siblings where the oldest is 7-10 years of age

Greatest Need of Adoption in Colombia – Children Over Age 9, Special Needs and Sibling Groups

Our agency remains committed to finding families for children in the greatest need of adoption in Colombia, including children over the age of 9, children with special needs ages 3-15 and sibling groups ages 2-15. Currently, close to 8,000 children in Colombia ages 10 and older are waiting for a family. Children may live in small private adoption houses or in larger institutions where they have access to the support of social workers and psychologists. Older children are given a choice about being adopted. After dossier submission to Colombia, adoptive families are typically matched with a child in need of adoption within 6-12 months.

Our agency is committed to finding families for all children in Colombia by advocating for all types of parents to be eligible to adopt. We are currently seeking the following families to submit applications for this program:

  • A pioneer-spirited gay or lesbian couple or single parent
  • Heterosexual married couples, single men and single women
  • Families of Colombian heritage

Support and Guidance for Adopting an Older Child

 Many adoptive families are drawn to Colombia as it’s a country with beauty in its people, landscape and culture. However, the fears, unknowns, and myths surrounding the adoption of older children discourage many prospective parents. Spence-Chapin offers myriad of services during the adoption process to encourage and support adoptive parents to overcome these barriers. Our social workers assist families in taking inventory of their individual, family and community strengths and determining various resources available to help their child and family thrive. We take great care in helping adoptive parents anticipate the needs of the child in order to develop a resource plan for parenting older children in the areas of medical, school, mental health, parenting, attachment, sibling preparation, home, support system, stress reduction, self-care and budgeting.

Following placement of a child or sibling group from Colombia, Spence-Chapin is available for support and guidance for the lifetime of your family. Our Modern Family Center offers counseling, parent coaching, post adoption support, mentorship and birthland trips.

Children in Colombia are waiting for you! We would love to tell you more about our program in Colombia. We welcome families living anywhere in the United States to call us at 212-400-8150 to speak with our international adoption staff. Or, visit our website to learn more about Colombia Adoption by clicking here!

Preparing Children for the Colombia Host-to-Adopt Program


Spence-Chapin partners with FANA for our Colombia host-to-adopt program. This program allows families interested in adopting an older child the opportunity to host a child in their home for three weeks before committing to the adoption.

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Children in the program, who are matched with a family, gather at FANA, an adoption home in Bogota, for two weeks to prepare for their trip to the United States.  This two-week preparation process is essential in helping the children navigate their fears, expectations, and excitement about traveling to a different country and living with host families.  Even before the children embark on their flights to the U.S., many of them fly into Bogota from other cities within Colombia.  In most cases, this is the child’s first time on a plane which is both thrilling and nerve-racking!

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Many emotions can accompany this excitement.  The staff at FANA help the children make sense of these emotions.  Some children are apprehensive about leaving their home.  Some may fear being rejected by their host families and not finding an adoptive family.  Staff members do their best to empathize with these concerns, knowing that this transition is hard and that each child experiences this process through his or her own personal experience. The staff also discusses how to balance the hope of possibly being adopted while maintaining realistic expectations. The goal is to prepare the children in order for the host-to-adopt experience so that the children can enjoy their time with their American host families.

Listen to Adraina Chavez, head of Clinical Psychology at FANA.

Children have simple questions about what to expect in New York. They want to know what food they will eat, what games they will play, where they will live, and what their host families will be like.  Each host family mails a photo album to the child or children with pictures of their family, the child’s room, bed, and toys. Because extended family is such an important component of Latin American life, children enjoy looking at the pictures of their extended host family.

FANA has found families for over 9,000 children through this process, so we know the host-to-adopt program is a successful way to connect families and older children while giving each child a voice in the adoption process.

We are seeking host-to-adopt families for this fall!

Call us today to learn more 212-400-8150.

Fall 2017 Colombia Host to Adopt Program

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Spence-Chapin partners with The Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia for a special host-to-adopt program. This is an opportunity to host a child or children in your home for three weeks over the fall before finalizing the adoption. Waiting children are boys and girls (including sibling groups) ages 11-14. Participating families must be located in the greater New York City area (includes Long Island, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and Connecticut).

Colombia Fall 2017 Host to Adopt Program Timeline:

  • May 15, 2017: Adoption applications are due
  • May – August, 2017: Begin home study and adoption trainings
  • August 2017: Home study must be completed, due at this time to Colombia’s child welfare Central Authority.
  • August – October 2017: Learning about the child or children family is matched with, continuing to prepare for hosting and adoption-related paperwork. Hosting dates will be decided by Colombia and announced during this time.
  • Fall (October or November 2017): Hosting time is 2-3 weeks, supported by bilingual psychologist from adoption house FANA and Spence-Chapin staff
  • December 2017 – June 2018: After hosting period, complete adoption paperwork to move forward with finalizing the adoption, estimate of 6 months though times will vary for families.
  • Summer 2018: Travel to Colombia for approximately 4-6 weeks to finalize the adoption

Contact our Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.              Ready to apply? Download the Colombia host-to-adopt application here.

Colombia’s Changing Adoption Landscape

Associate Director of International Programs Ben Sommers recently had the opportunity to visit Bogota, Colombia to meet with our Colombian representatives and visit institutions. Here, he shares his perspective on the changing landscape of adoption in the country.  

To those individuals and entities working within child welfare, “changing landscape” is an oft-repeated refrain referring to a generalized way to understand the broad shifts that have taken place in the field over the last several decades. In more specific terms, one of the most significant developments is the ballooning number of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups who are living in institutionalized care. For Spence-Chapin, our own organizational shift is focused around taking a proactive approach to addressing the realities of this new landscape.

Colombia offers a compelling illustration of what the new landscape looks like. I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogota to visit with our Colombian representatives and see firsthand how the rhetoric of changing landscape translated into reality. Bogota is Colombia’s most populous city, being home to approximately eight million people. Similar to any child welfare system in any nation on the spectrum of economic and social development, stories of children coming into the protection system due to poverty, violence, neglect, and substance abuse are commonplace.

The Colombian central authority on child welfare, Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF) has approximately eleven thousand children under its protection in the Bogota region. Of these eleven thousand children, approximately eight thousand have a legal status that allows for international adoption. The vast majority of this population of eight thousand children is made up of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups. While international and domestic policies prioritize domestic options, the children in protection institutes grow older, explaining the growing population number. Colombia’s domestic policies are admirable in their focus on family preservation and domestic options for these children but as these long processes unfold, or when they fail to yield legitimate options, the children get older.

Colombia San MauricioWhat I saw during my visits to four protection institutions clearly illustrated this reality: the former nurseries converted to dormitory-style housing, large outside play areas with soccer fields and basketball courts, varied facilities and extracurricular programming, and large staffs of child psychologists focused on the mental well-being of the growing number of children in each institution. It should be noted that the four institutions I visited are exceptional in terms of the resources available enabling them to turn into well-run, holistic facilities. Nonetheless, despite their summer camp-esque exteriors, the children in their care almost exclusively come from difficult backgrounds where abuse, transition, and disappointment have been present. Hence, the clinical focus on mental health and the socializing focus on creating structure, routine, and normalcy.

Again, the protection institutions I visited had the resources that allowed them to create these safe and structured environments. The institutions in rural, lower income areas that are home to thousands of children are not as fortunate. Also not as fortunate is the population of children with special needs who are living within the protection system. I heard numerous stories from child welfare professionals of misdiagnoses combined with bureaucratic indifference that has led to hundreds of children being placed in institutions that are inappropriate for their specific needs. Sadly, these children lack the advocates to help them find a more appropriate environment.

Ultimately, the children I saw are being productive. They take art classes, sing Disney songs, and idolize Lionel Messi. But for them, the notions of “permanent family” and a life free of foreseeable transition are still painted in somewhat vague colors. Many of the children are able to express the agency they feel over their futures by vocalizing either directly or indirectly their desire to be a part of a permanent family. There are challenges that exist for our adoptive families who hope to adopt these children, and these children will face challenges as they navigate the most significant transition of their lives. The limited snapshot of the Colombian child welfare system I was able to glimpse shows that the “changing landscape” rhetoric is grounded in the reality of individual anecdotes and that while the specific institutions I visited have constructed environments where children are able to progress, the key element of permanency is still missing.

Spence-Chapin presents child welfare training to ICBF and Colombian child advocates.

In order to ensure the successful placement of older children and sibling groups it is critical that all professionals involved in the adoption process are informed by the best current research and are all working out of the same paradigm to maximize success.  Spence-Chapin licensed social workers traveled to Bogota, Colombia at the end of September to present trainings to Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar/Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)  staff and Colombian child welfare advocates who are key in facilitating domestic or international adoption of older children and sibling groups. The training focused on maximizing potential success of placement for older children and sibling adoption. adoption training

School-age children, those who are 8 years old and older at time of placement, are the most overly represented population in orphanages worldwide. However, the fears, unknowns, and myths surrounding the adoption of older children discourage many prospective parents from exploring this option. Currently, close to 8,000 children in Colombia, ages 10 and older, are waiting for a family.

The professionals involved in the adoption process have an important role in preparing the child and the people involved with the child before the child is adopted. The extent to which the child is prepared for adoption has significant impact on easing the transition and maximizing successful incorporation into the family. Using available resources and strategies based on the child’s developmental levels, and current psychological understanding regarding attachment, have been found to be successful in alleviating the child’s anxieties, minimizing the stress associated with change and maximizing incorporation into a new family.

The Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar/Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), established in 1968, provides care services for children, adolescents and families, especially those under threat, insolvency or violation of their rights, and is Colombia’s central authority for adoptions.

Colombian Host-to-Adopt Program

Spence-Chapin Services for Families and Children announces the launch of a Colombian host-adopt program for the tri-state community.

Spence-Chapin and Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia are partnering to present a special host-adopt program in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. IMG_8665The program allows families interested in adopting an older child the opportunity to host a child in their home for three (3) weeks prior to making the commitment to adopt.

School-age children, those who are 8 years old and older at time of placement, are the most overly represented population in orphanages worldwide. However, the fears, unknowns, and myths surrounding the adoption of older children discourage many prospective parents from exploring this option. Currently, close to 8,000 children in Colombia, ages 10 and older, are waiting for a family. The goal of this host-adopt program is simple: to join those older children and sibling groups in need of parents with families who are ready to adopt.

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Having a child in a home before adoption finalization offers many benefits; aside from simply getting to know the child, a hosting period allows families to best prepare for the child’s homecoming – from favorite foods, familiarity with their routines, understanding the child’s personality, interests, and hobbies, families are better able to provide a child with a smoother transition into family life.

For the child, a host-to-adopt program allows for reflection on and a commitment to their adoption process. Children selected for hosting have expressed an interest in adoption; a hosting program offers the child not only a voice in their future, but also a choice. The adoption is a process of mutual selection – the family commits to the child, and the child commits to the family. Because of this, host-adopt programs have been very effective at placing school-age children.

For over 100 years Spence-Chapin has been the leader in adoption in the New York, New Jersey and across the USA finding homes for more than 20,000 children. Spence-Chapin also supports families with a variety of services including counseling, support groups, parent coaching, mentorships, and more. Similarly, the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) has been caring for thousands of children for over 40 years. Through their host-adopt program more than 9,000 children have found fulfilling futures with loving families.