Colombia adoption

Building Our Family Through Colombian Heritage Adoption: Chris and Michelle’s Story

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My wife and I decided to adopt in 2011. After weighing many options, including domestic adoption, we found the Colombian Heritage program at Spence-Chapin. My wife is half Colombian and half Portuguese and has always associated more with her Colombian culture and traditions.  In 2012 we submitted our application and started our training, home study, and dossier paperwork.  Our dossier was soon submitted to La Casa de la Madre y El Nino, one of the oldest orphanages in Colombia. We were matched with our daughter in July 2014 and traveled to meet her in September.

Our first picture of Genevieve, circa July 2014

In Colombia, the day a family and child meet for the first time is known as “Encuentro.” Our “Encuentro” was September 11, 2014. I remember waking up excited – until I turned on the TV and saw the 9/11 footage being replayed.  It was a roller coaster of emotions as we heard the names of people who perished that tragic day, but we reminded ourselves that we were only a few hours away from what would be the happiest moment of our lives.

We arrived at La Casa that morning, and met our beautiful daughter, Genevieve.  She let out a huge smile as soon as my wife took her into her arms, and the happy tears began flowing. The first days a family spends with their new child is known as “Integracion” or, in English, the Integration Period. “Integracion” went very well, as did all the remaining appointments, and we returned home together on October 24th.

 A couple of years later, 2016, we realized our family wasn’t quite complete. We started the process of adopting our second child. We decided to once again adopt from La Casa de la Madre y El Nino over the central authority (ICBF), despite potentially longer wait times, due to our connection with La Casa. It just felt right.

Genevieve meeting her (sleeping) little sister for the first time.

Genevieve meeting her (sleeping) little sister for the first time.

We moved from New Jersey to Maryland during this adoption, which added some time and additional paperwork, but we were matched with our second daughter in November 2018.  

We didn’t travel until March 2019 due to more delays in the paperwork, but returned home exactly one month later, with our second daughter, Madeleine.  In case you’re wondering, the girls’ names bring along a little of my heritage (my mother is French).  This trip was extra special for us as we got to experience Genevieve becoming a big sister; she was the first to see Madeleine at La Casa, and even helped getting her dressed for her big day!  

The process has been streamlined quite a bit in-country due to ICBF processing their cases through a court in La Mesa, rather than in Bogota. La Mesa is a beautiful city about 2 hours outside of Bogota, with a judge who is extremely supportive of adoptions. We stayed at the Kau Hotel, and highly recommend this hotel to families. 

I also would guide prospective Colombian Heritage families to a private Facebook group (Colombia Adoptions) that is extremely helpful with any questions that will arise during this often-daunting process.  We found the group to be an invaluable asset.  

Sisters Genevieve and Madeleine, snug as two bugs in a rug!

Sisters Genevieve and Madeleine, snug as two bugs in a rug!

There are times during the process when your patience will be tested, but I assure you there is a light at the end of that long tunnel. For us, that light has been seeing these two beautiful girls thrive in a loving home. 

International Adoption FAQ

Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption Programs are in South Africa, Colombia and Bulgaria. We are a Hague accredited organization with over 40 years of international adoption experience. Our goal is to find adoptive families for children in need and to prepare, support, and guide that family for their lifetime.

To apply, please submit your completed international adoption application.

Email: registration@spence-chapin.org
Mail: Spence-Chapin, Attn: International Adoption Application, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10128

Frequently Asked Questions:

What makes Spence-Chapin unique?
Spence-Chapin has been helping families adopt internationally for more than 40 years, with a strong network of skilled representatives and partners around the world. Spence-Chapin is a full-service organization, which means that we are here for you before, during and after your adoption.

In the US and around the world, the number of infants and young children available for adoption has declined due to a number of factors: reduced stigma toward single parent households, increased access to birth control, family reunification programs, in-country adoption programs, and difficult bureaucratic or political policies. At the same time, the number of older children, sibling groups and children with special needs living in institutions without parents to love them remains considerable.

What is the first step to adopt internationally?
The first step in beginning to work with Spence-Chapin is to complete the international adoption application. Families may receive the application after speaking with an international adoption specialist or after attending one of our free in-person or on-line information sessions. To see a schedule of upcoming events, visit the events calendar of our website.

What is a home study?
An adoption home study is a supportive and educational process where you officially begin your journey toward becoming an adoptive parent. Included in the home study process is parent preparation and training as required by The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which will be completed online or in-person with your social worker. Through this process you will share information about yourself and the circumstances that have brought you to your adoption. You and your social worker will discuss topics such as forming a family through adoption, transcultural and transracial factors, talking about adoption with your child, educating friends and family, and medical and developmental issues. This process results in an actual document — your adoption home study. In an international adoption, this document is then shared with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, the country from which you have decided to adopt, and the court that will finalize your adoption.

How do I choose a country program?
Begin by considering these questions: Is there a particular culture or part of the world that I am/we are drawn to? Who are the children around the world who are waiting for adoptive families? Will I be able to find opportunities to maintain my/our child’s cultural heritage? Do I meet the requirements/restrictions of a particular country? Do I have the flexibility to adjust to the unpredictability of a particular country and its adoption procedures? Am I prepared to adopt an older child or sibling group? What kind of special needs are a good fit for my family? How much information do I need to feel comfortable adopting a child?

Our adoption team is available to discuss your program choice and guide you through your decision. Call us today at (212) 400-8150!

What is a dossier and why do I have to prepare one?
A dossier is a collection of documents that prospective parents gather in order to adopt internationally, which is permitted to the foreign Central Authority that will process your adoption. In many cases, the dossier documents must be authenticated or legalized by local and state authorities in the United States before they can be considered legal documents. While dossier preparation can sometimes feel complicated and overwhelming, Spence-Chapin’s international staff members are experts in helping you to prepare your dossier and navigating you through the international adoption process.

I want to select the gender of my child. Is that possible?
Because Spence-Chapin is committed to finding homes for all children, it is our hope that families will be open to a child of either gender. Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What resources are available to me once I come home?
Spence-Chapin’s post-adoption services are available to you for the lifetime of your family. We offer extensive post-adoption services, from counseling about adoption, to child development issues, discipline, and parenting coaching to get you through those tough teen years.

I don’t live in New York City. Can I still work with Spence-Chapin?
Yes! We have a strong history of working with families living across the United States. For families living in the New York or New Jersey, Spence-Chapin conducts the home study preparation and training as well as coordinates the international adoption process. For families residing outside of the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin is able to establish a partnership with a family’s local Hague-Accredited home study provider anywhere in the country to coordinate the international adoption process.

What are the fundamental differences between International and Domestic adoption at Spence-Chapin?
While there are many procedural and bureaucratic differences, the fundamental differences include levels of openness, how adoptive families are matched with their children, and ages of children placed. Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption programs encourage open adoption whenever possible, while in international adoption it is not always possible to know about the child’s birth family. When children are matched with their families through international adoption, this is often done through a government body overseas or through the agency facilitators. In domestic adoption, birth parents are given the opportunity to select a family for the child and when this is not possible, thoughtful matches are made by child welfare professionals.

I don’t see answers to my questions. How can I get more information?
Please contact us so we can answer your questions and help you to figure out your next steps in this adoption journey! To speak with us by phone, please call us at 212-400-8150.

If you are considering adoption but are not sure if it is the right choice for you, Spence-Chapin offers pre-adoption consultations. These meetings are designed to help individuals and couples explore their options for adoption and feelings about building their family through adoption. Consultation topics can include: understanding the adoption process; deciding if adoption is right for your family; navigating differences in readiness for adoption between partners; preparing for the unique challenges and rewards of adopting a school-age child or siblings; thinking about readiness to be a single parent; making the transition from infertility to adoption; parenting both adoptive and biological children; considering the challenges of transracial and transcultural adoption; exploring domestic versus international adoption; and assessing eligibility and program options. The one-hour consultation fee is $150/hour.

To schedule an appointment with one of our adoption professionals, please call 212-400-8150 or email info@spence-chapin.org.

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:
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:
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.

Colombia Program Updates

Spence-Chapin’s fundamental belief is that Every Child Deserves a Family. We are a Hague accredited agency with over 40 years of experience in international adoption. Since 1994, we have been finding and preparing families to adopt children from Colombia, a Hague country. Our agency is approved by the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), the central authority for inter-country adoption.

Colombian Heritage Program

In July of 2017, we expanded our Colombia Adoption Program to find permanent, loving families of Colombian heritage for children in Colombia between the ages of 0-10 years old. According to Colombia’s eligibility parameters, families of Colombian heritage who are between 25-45 years old may apply to adopt a child as young as 0-4 years old. Children adopted through this program may have no pre-identified special needs.

How do you know if you are of Colombian heritage? This includes a person who was born in Colombia or a person with a parent born in Colombia. When submitting your application for the program, 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 18-24 months.

Greatest Need of Adoption in Colombia –Children with Special Needs, Older Children and Sibling Groups

We continue to seek American families 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. Through our Colombia Waiting Child Program, our agency remains committed to finding families for children in the greatest need of adoption in Colombia, including toddlers and school-age children with significant special needs, such as Down syndrome, and developmental delays. There are also siblings in need of adoption in Colombia. Since this is a waiting child program and families will be recruited for specific waiting children, there is no wait time to be matched with a child. The entire process is estimated to take 12-18 months.

Support and Guidance for the Lifetime of Your Family

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 school-age children, children with special needs and sibling groups 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 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. Spence-Chapin 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!

Have You Been Called to Help Children on Orphan Sunday?

We are joining the Orphan Sunday movement to bring awareness to the many children waiting for their adoptive parents to find them.

Preparing Children for the Colombia Host-to-Adopt Program

Spence-Chapin partners with FANA for our Colombia host-to-adopt program.

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.

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

Spence-Chapin presents child welfare training to Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF) and Colombian child advocates.

Colombian Host-to-Adopt Program

Spence-Chapin launches Colombian host-adopt program for the tri-state community.

Championing the Waiting Child

South African Orphans

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.

Uganda Orphans

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

Holy Week in Colombia

  The Colombian people have deep roots in Catholicism. In part, they express their beliefs through the splendor with which they celebrate Holy Week. Many of this special week’s traditions date back to the colonial centuries. During Holy Week, the Catholic religion commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is an entire ritual that congregates cities and towns and is proof of the religious spirit of the Colombian people. Holy Week Eastercelebrations in Colombia run from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

During these eight days, all regular activities come to a stop and people devote themselves to staging the drama of Christ in a variety of interpretations that reflect the social and cultural history of each community.

 

Colombia Culture Update

Colombia has a rich musical heritage that blends Amerindian, African and Spanish elements. In the Andes region, twelve-string guitars are often used to sing courtly and romantic songs called Bambucos. On the coast, the style of music is the Cumbia, played with flutes and drums. Colombia’s main cities, especially Bogota, have many symphony orchestras, theaters and art galleries to experience.

Colombia Program Update - February 2012

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We're happy to report that we have a number of families in the adoption process for Colombia,  showing a steady growth of interest for this country program. We continue to be committed to permanency options for older children in Colombia.  Spence-Chapin is looking for families who would welcome parenting a child or children 8 and older. If you would like to explore this option, please contact us at 212-400-8150.

Cultural Events

On February 11th, Gramercy Arts Theater presents Cronica De Una Muerte Anunciada with live English translation.  Set against the backdrop of a small Colombian town and explores the chain of events, false accusations, petty errors and biases that lead to the unnecessary death of a young man.  Visit www.repertorio.org  for more details.

Colombia Program January 2012 Update

Two exciting updates from Instituto Colombiano de Beinestar Familiar (ICBF): Spence-Chapin was re-accredited by ICBF this past summer and the organization has recently appointed a new Director General, Diego Molano Aponte. Molano Aponte was the Presidential Advisor for Social Action and has been one of the pioneers of the Social Action Programs and Red States in Colombia. In addition, he leads the Government's efforts to eradicate poverty. Spence-Chapin is currently exploring a unique summer host-to-adopt program for children 8 and older.  If you believe that an older child (or siblings) would be good fit for your family, this could be an opportunity for you.  We believe in the resiliency and adoptability of older children who are in need of permanent and loving homes.  For more information, please call 212-400-8150.

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Cultural Events

Dia de los Reyes Magos (aka Epiphany) is celebrated on January 6, 2012.  This is a national holiday celebrated in Colombia and officially marks the end of the holiday season.  It is a commemoration of the day when the three kings arrive with their gifts.