Interview with Carmen Elena Támara García
Did you know Colombia celebrates its own Women’s Day? In honor of Día de la Mujer Colombiana, we spoke with Carmen Elena Támara García, Spence-Chapin’s Foreign Supervised Provider in Colombia. She is an incredible woman in her own right and we wanted to learn more about her role advocating for children in need of families in Colombia and what makes this holiday so relevant today.
Carmen Elena, what is your current role? How long have you been involved in this work?
I am the Foreign Supervised Provider for Spence-Chapin in Colombia. That is, the person in charge of carrying out the administrative and legal functions on behalf of adoptive families working with Spence-Chapin’s Colombia Program. I serve as a bridge between Spence-Chapin and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) which is the Central Authority on adoptions in Colombia, and as a liaison for the agency and adoptive families to private adoption homes here in Colombia.
I have been linked with Spence-Chapin since 2012. Before this role, I worked as the Head of Adoptions at the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF) since 1993 and served as the Deputy Director of Protection from 1996 – 1999. In these positions, I directed the creation of programs aimed at the establishment of rights for children and adolescents, and the coordination and design of public policies to prevent and punish abuses against minors.
What is your typical workday like?
Every day I wake up with the hope of finding a family for a child who needs one. This is the motivation that inspires my work.
From early in the morning, I am in communication with organizations to answer questions and provide updates about families who have an application for adoption in process. When I receive a child’s referral or a family’s paperwork, I read all the received documentation and order the translation of documents that are necessary. Frequently, I must attend information meetings at ICBF or the private adoption houses.
When an adoptive family from the United States arrives in Colombia to meet their child, I will take care of all the logistics for their stay in Colombia and coordinate all the appointments which the family must attend to complete the adoption process. This typically includes medical appointments for the child and appointments at the United States Embassy.
As a family lawyer, I am also in charge of submitting the family’s legal request for a court date and accompanying the prospective adoptive family when they are notified of the adoption decree. This is very exciting for me!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When I see the happiness of a child and his adoptive parents on the day of the appointment for the “Encuentro meeting.” This is a mixture of feelings for me, it is a joy with crying! Later, when I receive the post-adoption reports and I read that the child has adapted well, and the adoption was successful for their parents, as well, it is very rewarding, especially if it involves the adoption of an older child. This is like saving a life!
Has there been a child or family that has made an impact on you in some way?
I remember with special affection each of the adoptive families that I have had the opportunity to accompany in the process. I admire each of them for their capacity to give love, sometimes in the face of difficult situations.
The families that adopt siblings have left an indelible mark on me. I am shocked by the way they handle more than one child at the same time, with a smile for each one, without complaining, without showing fatigue, without glimpsing problems, feeling that with love everything is arranged.
I also remember a 13-year-old girl who, the day she met her adoptive parents, told them: “You are more beautiful in person than I had seen you on Skype. I hope to be the best daughter, the best person and the best professional. I want to take care of you in your old age, to repay you for what you are doing for me.” These words touched me deeply and I have not been able to forget them.
What does Colombian Women’s Day mean to you?
Every November 14th since 1967, Colombian Women’s Day is celebrated. On this date, the heroic Policarpa “La pola” Salavarrieta is commemorated. It should be noted that Policarpa was an intelligent and brave woman who fought against the Spanish Crown at the beginning of the 19th century. She was executed by the Council of War during the Spanish Reconquista in 1817 for her role as a spy supporting the cause of independence for Colombia.
The date and original significance of the celebration are unknown by most Colombian citizens, but on this special date it is necessary to recognize all Colombian women for their spirit, hard work, perseverance, character, courage and the struggle that has characterized them.
In this important moment in which we find ourselves, I think active participation by women in political processes is essential. There are significant contributions women make in our post-conflict country that will enhance the integration of gender perspectives and the development of our democracy.
What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?
One of the most important challenges facing Colombia today is being able to design strategies that will open new opportunities for young people and reduce the deep disparity in living conditions that exist throughout the country.
I am convinced that one of the most effective ways to combat inequality is through education, science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and culture. That implies that all young girls should have the possibility of making the transition from the educational sector towards decent and quality employment.
I want to see young girls in the next generation empowered with their rights, exercising their obligations with full awareness of their potential to contribute to their own society.
Is there a powerful woman you admire most?
I admire all the women who have human quality. Human quality has nothing to do with intellect, knowledge, money or physical appearance, but with virtues such as kindness, simplicity, humility and solidarity. These women often go unnoticed, and in many cases, have had a life full of difficulties – but still they are grateful for life. It is a true privilege and I feel very fortunate when I meet this type of woman.
I admire coherent, honest women who fight to carry out their dreams and who spend time and effort totally unconditionally for the welfare of others.
To learn more about adoption from Colombia and the children in need of families, visit: www.spence-chapin.org/colombia