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Six-year waiting list to adopt children at home and abroad
ADOPTION processes in Spain are so slow that many would-be parents wait years for a child, and some have given up trying, says inter-regional federation FIDECAI.
The problem, which tends to be bureaucratic, largely involves international adoptions due to a lack of bilateral agreements between Spain and other countries. Spain's lack of progress leads to the other nations backing out, complains Susana Morales of the international adoption society Familias de Colores. “There are some 45 countries outside the EU with whom Spain shares adoption legislation,” she says, “so it doesn't make sense.”
Families hoping to adopt overseas sign a contract with an ECAI, or International Adoption Cooperation Agency, then join a waiting list of up to three years on average, but often as much as six years. The contract states how much the parents have to pay to cover the notary's, translator's and interpreter's fees and other costs; typically around €12,000 until recently but now at least €20,000, depending upon the country. This does not include travel or accommodation expenses for the parents, and in some nations, such as the Dominican Republic, they are required to stay there for up to four months; impossible where one or both parents work.
ECAIs, who manage adoptions along with regional governments from Spain and liaise with the child's country, say their hands are tied as Spain has had no legal framework covering international adoption for two years. They 'take responsibility' for providing a public service, but without State funding, they largely rely on donations. A Children's Law was approved in July 2015 but is still not in force, and few public funds mean accredited adoption organisations are being forced to close; only 41 were still operating in January, but the number is far lower now.
Things are not much better for adopting Spanish kids, says the FIDECAI: as well as the 120 million orphans worldwide cited by UNICEF, some 16,000 children in Spain live in shelters whilst 33,000 families are still waiting around for one to be assigned to them.
Familias de Colores says without ECAIs, parents hoping to adopt would not be able to complete the process, and also wonders why children with physical or mental disabilities are rarely adopted in Spain. “In China or Vietnam, for example, these are the only types of adoptions permitted,” says Susana Morales. “Also, why aren't older children, say, of five or six, adopted?”
She says a national database should be set up in Spain for home adoptions, since at present, 'a child in Segovia cannot be adopted by a family in Madrid'. “Also, the children's ages, the costs involved, timescale and training are different,” Sra Morales explains. “Whilst a certificate declaring the parents' suitability is valid across Spain and for all types of children, the training courses are not.”
Opposition parties in national government are pushing for a national adoption register, accusing the reigning PP of 'idleness' and calling for them to 'immediately' develop regulations covering minors' legal protection, which would be covered by the Children's Law approved two years ago but still sitting in a drawer. Solicitor Olatz Alberdi, from the firm ABA, says the provisions of the new law are 'good in theory' but 'unlikely to be possible to apply in practice' due to 'lack of resources, personnel and specialist teams'.
Several families have spoken out about their own adoption ordeals: Madrid couple Susana, 38 and Abraham, 43 say their regional government only gave them a choice of one country to apply to, whilst other regions offer two. Six years ago they paid €12,000 to start the ball rolling on adopting a child from Ethiopia, but now the country has blocked any further international adoptions, as they found out in May. They could start again from scratch elsewhere, but the money they paid is lost and they could face a bill of up to €21,000, plus another wait of six years.
“We were up to between 15 and 20 on the list, having started at number 100, which isn't bad, but even if Ethiopia reopens to the rest of the world, if our ECAI closes due to lack of funds, we can't guarantee it'll pick up where we left off,” Susana said. The couple applied to adopt in Spain instead, but the average age of the parents cannot exceed 40 to 41 years; whilst at the moment, Abraham and Susana's average age is 40.5, by next year it will be 41.5 and they will be 'too old'. Other countries are out; Madagascar is not signing any more contracts until 2020, India has a six-year waiting list and the Dominican Republic wants parents to live there for four months. They have now resigned themselves to never having a child. “I want to be a mother, not a grandmother,” Susana says.
Miguel and Sonia from Valladolid tried to adopt after two-and-a-half years of failed IVF, and say the conditions are 'impossible'. Brazil's waiting list was over six years, and only older children; China required a minimum net annual income of €30,000 plus assets of €80,000; neither parent is allowed to be diabetic, according to the Philippines, and Miguel is; Russia's waiting list is 14 months and requires a minimum of three trips, 'and so on until all 32 countries were ruled out'. They have applied to adopt nationally, but are only permitted to have a child from their own region; Castilla y León is currently assigning children to parents who applied in 2011.
An Andalucía couple say they have waited seven years as they were not allowed to continue the process if they were also trying to have their own biological child, and Luz underwent two courses of IVF before realising it would never happen. Mountains of bureaucracy later, they are trying to adopt abroad, but the source country carries out three home visits before agreeing the child can stay; also, children keep their birth surname, which can take over two years to change due to court backlogs in Spain.
Meanwhile, children continue to grow up in orphanages in Spain and worldwide, never experiencing proper family life, whilst couples desperate for a child give up their dream due to insurmountable obstacles.
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