Officials Suspend Adoptions to United States

August 13, 2004

A U.S. woman and her husband recentlytried to adopt a child from Costa Rica,but were barred from starting the process.The woman, who does not want to be identified,told The Tico Times this month theydiscovered that their country is on the listof those banned, at least temporarily, fromparticipating in international adoptionsfrom Costa Rica.“My husband and I are not very far intothe process, and although we had ourhearts set on a pair of siblings from CostaRica, we can look elsewhere in the world ifneeded,” she said.A change in the Child Welfare Office’srules that went into effect in February hasbarred international adoptions to theUnited States and other countries that havenot ratified the Hague Convention onProtection of Children and Cooperation inRespect of Inter-Country Adoption or thatdo not have separate adoption agreementswith Costa Rica.APPARENTLY, it is not another caseof U.S. nose-thumbing at internationalconventions. Rather, the country is stallingin making the rules of its states conform tothose agreed upon in The Hague.The United States signed the Conventionin 1994, and, according to the U.S.Embassy in Costa Rica, it is in the processof passing new laws that will apply theConvention’s provisions.“But it is a long, complicated process,”an embassy representative said.IN the meantime, the discovery lastyear of nine Guatemalan babies held by anunregistered U.S.-based adoption agencyat a house in San José turned eyes towardCosta Rica’s adoption pacts between thetwo countries (TT, Sep. 26, 2003). Theproblem is, there aren’t any.“We realized we don’t have the backingof any convention or agreement withthe United States,” said Luis Quirós, legalrepresentative of Costa Rica’s AdoptionOffice. “The National Adoption Councilmade a decision to suspend accreditationof new agencies from the United States andother countries (that have not ratified theHague Convention), as well as adoptionsto those countries.”Though spurred by the suspicion ofcriminal activity at the unregisteredagency, the decision to suspend adoptionsto the United States does not reflect the situationof the majority of cases, saidCristian Carvajal, chief of the AdoptionOffice, part of the Child Welfare Office.“The idea was never to reject U.S. familiesin the adoption process,” he said. “Wehave had very good experiences withthem.” He said U.S. families are more likelyto accept older children and groups ofbrothers and sisters, or children with healthproblems.HOWEVER, Quirós added that insome cases there have been problems withmonitoring. One of the provisions of theHague Convention is that child welfareservices in the country of the adoptedchild’s birth will follow the child’s developmentand adjustment to the new familyfor five years, through biannual reports.Not all U.S. families have followedthrough with paying for the studies and theofficial reports, and without any agreementbetween the countries, Costa Rica is powerlessto respond.To circumvent that problem and to speedtoward the day when Costa Rica lifts its suspensions,officials are now working on abilateral agreement with the United States.“We are in the first phases of talks,”Carvajal said. “We are working with the(U.S.) Embassy to see what is the bestsolution.”SINCE 2000, 15 Costa Rican childrenhave been adopted by U.S. families fromthe 73 children adopted by families wholive outside the country.Most children adopted from Costa Ricago to Spain, which has ratified the HagueConvention, Carvajal said, adding therehas been no decrease in the number of childrenadopted since the suspension wentinto effect.For three U.S. couples who werealready involved in the adoption processwhen the rule change took effect, Quiróssaid, their cases will go before the NationalAdoption Council for study.According to a representative of theChild Welfare Office, U.S. citizens and citizensfrom any country who have permanentresidency in Costa Rica can still adoptCosta Rican children.Once the adoption process has beenfinalized and the child’s name has beenregistered in the Civil Registry with thenew last names of his or her adopted parents,the parents are free to take the childout of the country.

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