colombia heritage

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. 

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!