Colombian-American Adoptive Families: Instructions for Obtaining a Colombian Passport

Spence-Chapin recently expanded our Colombia Adoption Program to find permanent, loving families of Colombian heritage for children in Colombia ages 0-4. How do you know if you qualify as Colombian heritage according to the Colombian Central Authority’s guidelines? This includes a person who was born in Colombia or has a parent who was born in Colombia.

In order to move forward with a Colombian heritage adoption process, the adoptive parent needs to provide a Colombian birth certificate or Cedula to document this heritage. Adoptive parents often use a recent certified copy of the Registration of Birth Certificate (Registro Civil de Nacimiento) issued by a local Colombian Consulate OR a notarized copy of the Colombian Citizenship Card (Cédula de Ciudadanía). Per United States adoption guidelines, at least one adoptive parent needs to be an American citizen.

Obtaining a Cedula as a Colombian-American Born in the U.S. Or a Colombian-American Born in Colombia
If you do not have either of the Colombian documents, it is possible to obtain them at your local Colombian Consulate. It is advised that Colombian-Americans apply for the Registro Civil de Nacimento and/or Cedula at their local Colombian Consulate as soon as possible as it is not possible to move forward with a Colombian heritage adoption process without these documents.

Parents between 25-45 years old can request to adopt a child 0-4 years old. The estimated wait time to adopt a child 0-4 by Colombian-American families is 12-24 months after dossier submission.

Colombian Consulate in New York
http://nuevayork.consulado.gov.co/
10 East 46th Street New York, NY, 10017
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. a 1:45 p.m. – Saturday 9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.
Phone: (212) 798 9000
Fax: (212) 972 1725

Colombian Embassy in Washington DC:
www.colombiaemb.org/Consular_Services_Colombians
1724 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 387-8338
Fax: (202) 232-8643

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.

International Home Studies with Spence-Chapin

 

Interested in Adopting Internationally? 

In addition to our placement programs in Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa, Spence-Chapin also provides international home study services for families adopting from many other countries. In the past, we have supported families pursuing adoption from Ghana, Jamaica, Haiti, India, South Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and elsewhere around the world. We offer Home Study, pre-adoption counseling and more for every type of adoption.

Regardless of the country you are adopting from, all families, need to complete a home study. Spence-Chapin provides international home study services for families living in the NYC area, including New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. We work with families living within 100 miles of New York City. Our home studies are of the highest caliber, and meet the highest legal regulations set for international adoption.

Finding a Primary Provider

In order for our team to fully review and consider your home study application, you’ll need a Primary Provider. A primary provider is a Hague accredited agency in the United States that is responsible for your international adoption. This agency will help navigate the inter-country laws and documentation you will need for your international adoption.

For international adoptions, it is very common for a family to use two adoption agencies – a home study agency & a placement agency. A home study agency provides the home study, parent preparation/training, and post adoption supervision. The placement agency  is responsible for the overseas adoption process including the child referral, travel, and dossier preparation. The two agencies work together to ensure that all parts of the adoption process meet state, federal and country requirements.

How do I Find a Primary Provider?

You can visit our website for links to helpful websites and organizations that may help you identify a primary provider for the country you are hoping to adopt from. We recommend reviewing potential Primary Providers through COA or the National Council on Adoption. The United States Department of State oversees all international adoptions to the United States and may also be a resource for you: adoption.state.gov.

Once I’ve identified a primary provider, what’s next?

Once you’ve identified a primary provider, the next step is to fill out our free Home Study application. The application is on our website and you can download it directly anytime. The Home Study Application is an opportunity for our team to get to know your family better and to learn more about the nuances of the adoption you’re hoping to pursue. After we receive your family’s application, our staff will follow up with you to schedule a convenient time to speak, to further discuss the adoption you’re looking to pursue and next steps in the process!

 

To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

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!

Colombia_Girl_web

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

Host to Adopt blogpost

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.

Search & Reunion: Where to Begin

 

Pamela Slaton

Name: Pamela Slaton
Pamela Slaton is a Genealogist and Private Investigator in the State of New Jersey whose business mainly focuses on locating birth families. She is also a Spence-Chapin adoptee. Her area of expertise lies in having the ability to combine historical records with contemporary data.

 

 

 

Jessica

Name: Jessica Luciere

Jessica Luciere is an international adoptee who decided early in her life that she wanted to search for her birth family. She contacted a private investigator in Colombia when she was 23 years old after going through various avenues in New York, and he was able to find her birth mother with the information she had through her birth papers. Her family was found within a week. Jessica has visited her birth family many times in Colombia and maintains a very open relationship with them.

Mark Lacava

Name: Mark Lacava

Mark Lacava is the Director of Clinical Services in the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin. He works with all members of the adoption community and has experience working with individuals embarking on the search and reunion process. He received his Masters of Social Work from Columbia University and a Foundations of Family Therapy Certificate from the Post-Graduate Program at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. He has been a clinician working with children and families for over 20 years.

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.

In Remembrance of Flicka Van Praagh

flicka 3Spence-Chapin offers its heartfelt remembrance of the life and spirit of Flicka Van Praagh.  Flicka had served as the agency’s Director of the International Adoption Department from 1992-2004, having first joined the organization in 1958.

With an early interest in adoption, Flicka chose to come to Spence-Chapin for her student placement, a requisite for her MSW from Columbia University, and was offered a position after graduation. She started as a case worker in foster care in 1958 and was department head from 1961 to 1964 when she left to become Director of Social Services at Woman’s Hospital, a division of St. Luke’s Hospital Center. There she met her husband and they became the parents of a daughter and two sons. She returned to the agency in the early 1970’s on a part-time basis doing intakes and home studies that could be completed while her children were in school. She eventually came back full-time working in the international department.

Flicka made the first of many trips around the world in 1975, traveling to Seoul, Korea to implement the founding of Spence-Chapin’s first international program. She traveled extensively in Latin America in the 1980’s, working to establish programs in Chile, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala.

In 1992, Flicka became the director of the international department. She said, “In joining Spence-Chapin, I was able to see the world and visit so many wonderful places. I went to twelve countries trying to set up new programs; opening Russia, China, Moldova and Bulgaria. I found it thrilling to help waiting children from all around the world find their forever families.”

Understanding the critical impact that physical and emotional contact has during a child’s early stages of development, Flicka had the vision to establish Spence-Chapin’s first Granny Program in Bulgaria in 1998. This program’s success saw its replication in China, Moldova, Colombia and South Africa.

Flicka was loved by the many families that she helped bring together. In the New York Times online Guestbook Marth Volcker wrote, “Flicka was a wonderful person, and I am forever grateful to her for the important role she played in the adoption of our daughter. We adopted our daughter from China in 1999, and Flicka was a wonderful guide through the complete adoption process. We saw Flicka about a year and a half ago at a Spence-Chapin function, and her ability to remember and her interest in all the children she had placed in forever families was amazing.”

“We, the parents of two of the ‘in excess of 500 children’ Flicka helped place in adoption while at Spence-Chapin, would like to express our condolences to her family as well as our thanks, once again, to Flicka for guiding us through the 14 months that led up to the arrival of our then six-month and now 32 year old twin daughters, Jessie and Corey. Her spirit lives on in all of us,” wrote Jon Silbert and Bonnie McHale.

The Meo family added, “We are forever grateful and blessed to be parents because of Flicka. We were part of her last group to China. She was an amazing woman. May she rest in peace knowing the love and joy she brought to so many.”

At her retirement party in 2004, Flicka said. “In all the years that I worked with Spence-Chapin, I always carried a case load in addition to my other responsibilities because of the great pleasure and joy in working with clients and seeing them turn into families.”

For Ann Hassan, our current Director of Adoption, Flicka was more than a humanitarian. Flicka“To me, Flicka was a mentor, advisor and friend. As a young worker I idolized her, and she in turn invested in me, encouraged me and molded me into the social worker I am today. She combined grace and confidence in a way that made her a superb leader and a truly unique and special woman. She had true affection and commitment for the hundreds of families she worked with over the years, stemming I think from the immense love and pride she had for her own family and a core belief that everyone deserves to experience that kind of love. Flicka guides me in my work, and in life, and will forever live on through me and my many colleagues who learned from her for so many years.”

As parents and child welfare professionals, many of us are inspired by her work and her legacy.  As we reflect on her achievements, we struggle to find the balance of a tribute and a call to action – not to just mourn Flicka, but to learn from Flicka and continue her work. In doing so, we could elevate our focus of our common goal – that every child deserves a family.

If you would like to make a donation to continue Flicka’s work, we would welcome a tribute gift in her honor or call Mary Connolly, 212-360-0204.

 

You can read our remembrance to Flicka online at the NY Times.

 

Illinois Outreach Trip

Associate Director of Outreach Katie Foley describes her recent trip to Illinois to meet with FamilyCore, prospective adoptive families, and a current Spence-Chapin family. 

As the Associate Director of Outreach, my favorite part of my work is getting to meet incredible communities of families across the country. When I travel I’m always reminded of the dedication of adoption professionals to their families and how remarkable adoptive families are! This October, I drove over 200 miles in just two days and it was worth every mile to meet the committed staff at FamilyCore, prospective adoptive families, and a current Spence-Chapin family.

On Tuesday, October 22nd, I had the opportunity to meet with the adoption staff at FamilyCore, an agency which serves families in the Peoria, Illinois greater area. FamilyCore serves parents and families with a diverse range of services, including counseling, adoption, and foster care. FamilyCore’s professional counselors and staff provide a wide selection of expertise to help meet the special needs of the community, including a special focus on single parents. Spence-Chapin is thrilled to partner with FamilyCore for international adoption services.

During our meeting, we focused on Spence-Chapin’s international adoption programs in Bulgaria, Colombia, and South Africa and how Spence-Chapin is working to eliminate traditional barriers to adoption, including agency fees. FamilyCore staff shared how they prepare families for international adoption with a balance of in-person meetings and online education. After our afternoon together, we headed to the Forrest Hill United Methodist Church for an information meeting. The meeting was a unique opportunity for prospective adoptive families to hear from both the home study agency (FamilyCore) and the placing agency (Spence-Chapin) about the current landscape of adoption and the children most in need of a loving family – older children, their siblings and children with special needs.

On Wednesday, October 23rd, Tracy, a parent in the process of adopting from the Spence-Chapin South Africa program, agreed to partner with me to be an information meeting HOST.  Host Outreach for Spence-Chapin Together is an opportunity to introduce Spence-Chapin adoption programs to your community and to help find loving and permanent families for the most vulnerable children waiting around the world. HOST families are an integral part of Spence-Chapin’s mission to find families for the waiting children around the world.  Tracy and her son Isaac welcomed me into their home on Wednesday for dinner before the information meeting. It was fantastic to meet them both! It was an honor to spend the evening with Tracy and to learn more about her family.  As a HOST, Tracy helped me organize the meeting in Urbana, IL on the 23rd. She emailed an invitation to local adoptive families, posted on facebook, and sent the meeting details to adoption professionals in her community, such as adoption attorneys. Thank you Tracy!

Although I’ll be taking a break from traveling for the holiday season, I look forward to my next trip in the New Year.  Stay tuned for my next destination- maybe I’ll be coming to visit your community!

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.

 

Championing the Waiting Child

This summer we traveled to Colombia, South Africa and Uganda to explore opportunities to expand our reach to help more children. Visiting these countries and meeting with their child welfare representatives solidified our resolve to find adoptive homes for children there. During our trips, we witnessed the love and care these children receive but also were acutely aware of the staff making do with what little resources they had. In each country we clearly observed the changing face of adoption and saw the many school-aged children, sibling groups and children with special needs who are waiting for a family of their own. Because we feel that that every child deserves a home, championing the adop­tion of these children is part of what Spence-Chapin does.

Our time in Colombia was inspiring, encouraging and sobering. Having met with the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF – The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare within the Ministry of Social Protection), our staff was impressed by the level of care provided to the approximately 9,000 children in their custody. In each adoption house visited, we encountered psychologists, social workers and other professional staff helping children prepare for adoption, and yet no forever families were on the horizon for these children.

In South Africa there is no question about the number of children needing permanency; by 2015 there will be more than 5.5 million orphans in South Africa. As one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority to place children with American families, we are delighted to partner in this initiative with Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW). Our similar mission and history of having worked together on our Granny program, make this partnership a natural fit. We have officially launched this program and are eagerly accepting applica­tions for adoption. We are excited about placing children with black families as well as families who will open their hearts and homes to the children most likely not to be adopted in South Africa because of their age or medical needs.

In Uganda, we learned about the millions of orphans and their extremely limited options. When parents die some children are taken in by relatives but many others try to survive on the streets. While there, we established a strong relationship with MIFUMI, a Ugandan international aid and development agency. MIFUMI is opening doors for us to explore child welfare and adoption needs in Uganda, and while program development can take some time, we are already looking at opportunities for James, a 5-year-old boy who does not have family to care for him, who does not have a local children’s home to care for him, and with no other option, is living in a domestic violence shelter among women and chil­dren experiencing repeated trauma. We see James and the difficult situations he has already had in his short life, and we are moved to create something better for him and the millions of other children in situations like his.

In the past year, we’ve talked much about the changing face of adoption, but what we know has not changed is the number of chil­dren, particularly older children, sibling sets, and children with special needs, waiting to be adopted. Spence-Chapin has refocused efforts to help all families afford adoption by offering Adoptionships and specialized pre-adoptive parent preparation and training that will enable families to feel more confident about opening their homes to these children. It is with your ongoing commitment and needed support that we move forward with passion and dedi­cation as we refine our vision and enhance our services to these resilient children and their adoptive forever families.

Visit our Flickr page to see pictures from this trip.

Read more about Waiting Children on our site.

Dia Del Trabajo

With the exception of a small number of countries, America included, Labor Day or Workers’ Day is a holiday celebrated on May 1st of each year, dedicated to the struggles and success of working class people.

In Colombia, this day is called El Dia Del Trabajo. Walk down the usually busy streets of Bogota on this day, and you’ll find them deserted! Like in America, on our Labor Day, held in September to mark the end of summer, almost all businesses, post offices, banks, and stores are closed. Instead of working, people protest and parade across the country in solidarity with the working class.

On el Dia Del Trabajo in Colombia, workers from all industries make it a point to stick together and peacefully demand rights for the working class. Traditionally, they dress up in bright red, which stems from the holiday’s socialist origins. El Dia Del Trabajo isn’t only celebrated in Colombia, actually, notable celebrations happen all over the world.

There aren’t many celebrations in America, since our Labor Day is September. However, the origins of Dia Del Trabajo are a great history lesson to teach children. While it is a very somber topic, there are many great themes you can focus on: Human Rights, Equality and Fairness, Solidarity, and Tradition.

Here are some resources to get you started:

The Gaurdian – The History of Mayday

LibCom.org – A Short History of May Day

A Closer Look: Adoptions from Colombia

Last month, Helene Lauffer, associate executive director, and Samantha Walker, assistant director for international adoption, traveled to Colombia to meet with staff from all the adoption houses with which Spence-Chapin works to place children. Here, Helene shares the highlights of their trip.


For Samantha and I, it was our first time visiting Colombia. Upon our arrival, we were met by our Colombian representative, Manuela Fonnegra de Michelsen, who whisked us into Bogotá. Dedicated, resourceful and charming, Manuela tracks all of our cases, coordinates the process with the government, adoption houses, lawyers, translators and families. She is highly organized and a problem-solver extraordinaire. She cares deeply about the children, and she is tireless in her efforts to move our cases along.

Early the next morning, Samantha and I flew to Cali, a city southwest of Bogotá. We visited Chiquitines, an adoption house that we have worked with for over 16 years. Home to 80 children ranging in age from infant to 12 years old, Chiquitines is led by Agatha de Leon, a charming, warm woman. The orphanage is outside the city of Cali, in a suburban setting with a large lawn, lush greenery and a pool. The children’s rooms were spotless; and the many caregivers active and supportive. With Agatha, as with all the other adoption houses we visited, we discussed trends, adoption timeframes, costs and specific cases. We also reviewed our humanitarian aid support to Chiquitines which goes back many years. Agatha also shared with us her challenges in maintaining a high-quality children’s home in the face of enhanced regulatory oversight and increased operating costs.

Samantha and I said goodbye to Chiquitines and shared a traditional Cali lunch with Magnolia, our local representative. Magnolia has served as a guide, translator and surrogate grandmother to the many families who have adopted from Chiquitines over the years. As soon as we met Magnolia, we could see how her patience, calmness and local know-how would be reassuring to families as they go through the adoption process so far from home.

The next morning, Samantha and I returned to Bogotá and met with staff from Instituto Colombiano Bienestar de Familiar (ICBF), the family welfare institute that oversees adoptions. With them, we reviewed our accreditation (which is being renewed), our in-country humanitarian aid efforts and our experience with specific cases. ICBF is especially keen to promote the adoptions of older children, sibling groups and children with special needs, as well as adoptions by families with Colombian heritage. Spence-Chapin has been moving forward with a number of such cases and learning a great deal in the process.

Next, we visited La Casa, the first private children’s home to be established in Colombia. We were extremely impressed with this homey, yet beautiful, clean and well-laid out orphanage set in a lovely neighborhood in central Bogotá. Samantha and I met with Ines Elvira Cuellar, the head of adoptions for La Casa, and she was as warm as she was clear and committed to finding homes for both typically developing as well as special needs children. As we toured La Casa, we saw newborns, infants, toddlers and older children. The toddlers were especially eager to see us and to share hugs. Most memorable was when a small, Afro-Colombian girl saw Samantha, who is a tall and striking black woman. The child’s face broke into an expression of wonder and joy, and she ran to Samantha with outstretched arms. It was a moving and a heartbreaking moment.

Afterwards, we headed to the outskirts of Bogotá to visit Ayúdame (translated as “help me” in Spanish). Founded 34 years ago, Ayúdame is home to 50 children, most of whom are under age seven. Maria Clemencia Marquez Gutierrez is the energetic, determined and caring woman who directs the home and the maternity shelter that is also operated under the auspices of Ayúdame. Ayúdame works with only a few agencies, and we are pleased that Maria Clemencia is adding Spence-Chapin to that roster. She makes it a point to visit the agencies with which she collaborates for adoptions every few years so that she can be assured that their assessment and preparation of families is thorough and skilled. Since Spence-Chapin takes the same care in reviewing the adoption houses with which we collaborate, we think it will be an excellent partnership.

Ayúdame operates out of a private home on three floors. The perimeter of several of the bedrooms was lined with cribs for infants; other rooms have toddler beds and bunk beds. Samantha and I were greeted by gleeful children playing and singing.

That evening, we had dinner with the full Spence-Chapin team: Manuela, Jorge Ivan (an attorney who is our deputy representative), Nora (who assists Manuela in putting together the documentation for the cases), and Marie Elena (an attorney who use to direct adoptions at ICBF and who handled a recent case for us). We heard more from them all about some of our recent cases and we shared with them news of the families now that they are back in the U.S.

On Friday morning, we drove to Chía, a rural district in Bogotá surrounded by mountains, about 45 minutes outside the city. This is the setting for Fundacion Niña Maria, the adoption house where Spence-Chapin started a granny program a year and half ago. Niña Maria has two sites in Chía: one that houses older boys, and the other that houses all the young children, as well as the older girls. Altogether, Niña Maria is home to approximately 90 children—many of whom are under the protection of the state and not available for adoption.

We were warmly greeted by Marlena, the founder and director of Fundacion Niña Maria, as well as many of the staff. After introductions, we were led into the building where our granny program is operated. We were all amazed and moved by the incredible sight of 12 grannies paired with 12 children, sitting at small tables or on the floor, completely engaged in their tasks together. Some were reading, some playing with blocks, some doing puzzles, some practicing forming letters or calculating sums. The children were full of smiles, hugs and affection for their grannies. These are all children who, without their grannies, would rarely get any personal attention. Because of the granny program, they spend two hours a day, five days a week, with someone who they know cares a great deal about them and who rejoices in their accomplishments. They are all thriving with the attention of the grannies, and they are making real progress in their social, emotional and physical development.

After the children left, we spoke to the grannies to thank them for their dedication to this program and to tell them that we consider their work to be extremely important. I was so filled with emotion (and so flustered) that I said, “Buenos noches” instead of “Buenos dias,” but they had a good laugh and seemed to forgive me! We met with the program staff, who have been putting great effort into planning activities for the grannies and documenting the progress of the children. They are eager to have Rita Taddonio, our director of post-adoption services, return to Chía to provide more training to the grannies and the staff (so start packing your bags, Rita!).

As I sat on the plane to return to New York, I felt satisfied and hopeful. The satisfaction comes from knowing that we have a wonderful and a dedicated team representing Spence-Chapin in Colombia: a team that understands the process of adoption and has the skills to see it through. It also comes from the knowledge that we have partnered with some very well-run, ethical adoption houses that are committed to the children in their care. We have the respect and support of ICBF. And, we are finding homes for children who need them. Now that we have laid and reinforced this foundation, the hope is that we can continue to find families (Colombian and non-Colombian) who will see this program as a viable route to building their families, who will enjoy spending time in Colombia during their adoption process, and who will embrace the process of incorporating Colombian culture into the life of their family going forward.