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February 2013

Children Waiting for a Family

IMG_2320The interview below with the executive director of the National Adoption Council (CNA) here in Guatemala was published in the local newspaper (See the original article written in Spanish here). In the article, the director explains how the adoption process works now in Guatemala, after the passage of the Adoption Law in December of 2007.

What is adoption?

The general adoption can be seen in many ways. In principle, one can say that it is a measure that exists in order to restore a child’s violated rights. The child has a general principle of living with their parents, but there are times when this cannot be. However, you have the right to live in a family environment, and adoption is the way to restore that right.

What is the process to adopt a child?

It require that you first submit an application with details of the adopters; note of their income, health certification, and willingness to undergo a process of psychological and social evaluation. After the evaluation, they receive a certificate of suitability, which allows them to participate in a related session where the National Adoption Council assigns them to a child.

Following the enactment of the act, what has changed in the process?

Practically the law came to break the paradigms of adoption. Before, it was mainly private and had little control by the State. From the effective date of the new law, the State assumes a monopoly of the adoptions, and that means establishing strict control on the adoption process. Now it is free, before it was expensive. Before December 31, 2007, adoption was directed primarily to the interest of a family. Not today, today it is made in the interest of the child, and it is he who determines the stages of adoptability.

How long does this process take?

The time to obtain a certificate of suitability takes three to six months, and the time when a child is integrated into the family is given in the next three months. Now, how long it takes depends on the expectations the family has about the adoption. Why? Because the family must state which child they want to adopt, as far as general characteristics, for example, girl or boy, age, physical appearance, ethnicity, or with or without a medical need. Because, based on the expectations the family has, we will consider the child’s needs and identify the one that is the best suited to that family.

How long does it take the State to declare a child adoptable?

First, the child will be subject to a protection process. That will determine if their right to a family was violated. If that right was violated, they will be declared adoptable. But, as this is the last option, first it takes an investigation process to locate the parents and try to determine if the child can live with their parents, because they have the right to not be separated from their biological parents. From there we can say that the protective process in Guatemala takes about two years.

Is it required to have sufficient resources in order to make an adoption?

Yes, you need to have sufficient resources. As for the variety of resources to consider, what they look for is that you have parental strengths. That means you have emotional capability, and economic resources, not in abundance, but what is necessary to meet the child’s needs.

Do adopted children need special treatment?

In principle, we must consider what children are declared adoptable. For example, in the five years of implementation of the Act, there have been 932 children declared adoptable, of whom 350 have special needs, are more than 7 years old, or belong to a sibling group.

What are the generalities of children who have been adopted?

We managed to locate children older than 3 years and younger than 7 years. In general, healthy children that aren’t a part of a sibling group. Here it has been easy for the National Council of Adoption to locate and identify a family and proceed to include it in the selection process.

What are the places in the country where there are the most adoptions?

The families that have adopted the most are from urban areas, but we also have some from rural areas, too. They are usually families that couldn’t conceive a child themselves, or who have given birth and time has elapsed so nature doesn’t allow for conception, but they are interested in expanding their family.

How many families have approached the Council?

During these five years, there have been 980 families, approximately. When one compares how many families there are and the children that are able to be adopted, there seems to be no problem. However, I reiterate that what you have to consider is that not every family who submits an application will find a child immediately. We struggled to find a family for those 350 special needs children.

Where are these children?

As the child has not had their right to live in family environment restored, there are two options, one is to live in a group home and the other is to receive a foster family. The time a child spends in a group home brings damage to its development, a delay and, consequently, we should make sure the child is there for as little time as possible.

How many foster homes are there and what are the controls?

Under the Adoption Act, the CNA is responsible for authorization and supervision of the homes. There are currently 133 operating, located throughout the country, and there are approximately 5, 367 children living in them.

What happens with their education without a birth certificate?

Not all children who are in homes lack identification, many are enrolled in the National Registry of Persons. Education, whether private or public, is taken care of by the child’s home.

Where can those interested in adopting go?

Those interested in adopting can reach the headquarters of CNA, Avenida de La Reforma 6-64, Zone 9, Corporate Plaza building, Tower 1, Floor 2. And the phone number for consultations is 2415-1600, from 8 to 4.



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