The cancellation of the processes of deprivation of parental authority and the delay in the procedures of the courts and the agencies concerned due to the measures to handle the Covid-19 emergency, have reduced the adoption of minors in Puerto by more than half Rico so far this year.
For minors waiting for a new home and family, the pandemic – which caused the closure of government agencies and economic sectors since mid-March – has been a stoppage for the beginning of a new life, mainly for those who have 12 years and older.
According to the most recent data from the Department of the Family, only 76 minors have been adopted so far this year, which includes seven groups of siblings.
If these data are compared with the last three years, and just under three months to end 2020, a substantial drop in the adoption process is evident. For example, 241 minors were adopted in 2019, 165 in 2018 and 207 in 2017.
“The reduction in adoptions is in the groups of children 12 years and older, who are the ones who really sometimes stay in the system because all families want to have small children and we have many older children,” reported Glenda Gerena Ríos , administrator of the Administration of Families and Children (Adfan), in an interview with THE SPOKESMAN.
He explained that of the total number of minors waiting to be adopted, there are currently 75 of 12 years or more in the custody of the agency.
“We have had some great challenges in terms of the process and how this has affected through the emergency. Adoption hearings were initially postponed due to the pandemic. The courts were not available for a period of time to present and complete the procedures despite having the personnel available on our part to handle the case, ”explained the official.
He added that in the case of the cancellation of the processes of deprivation of parental authority, the majority has not been indicated urgently. “That has affected us a bit since there are no such indications for the release of parental authority, since the adoption process has decreased,” he said.
Of the 76 minors adopted so far, 31 are female and 45 are male. Furthermore, 20 of the adopted minors are between 0 and 3 years old; 24 are between 4 to 7 years old; 19 are 8 to 12 years old; and 13 between 12 years and over. In the process of adoption, there are 101 cases.
Ready for the adoption process
In Family – as specified – there are 273 minors with a primary adoption permanence plan, which means that they are ready to be adopted. But only 101 of those 273 minors are placed in pre-adoptive homes as the court process takes place and the adoption is finalized.
According to Gerena Ríos, there are 2,784 minors in the custody of the State, but not all are in adoption plans. He commented that there are different plans and that the purpose of the agency is not that all children are adopted, but that some can return home with their parents or guardians, as long as there is no pattern of abuse, among other factors.
The legal aspect
From a legal point of view, lawyer Osvaldo Burgos analyzed the implications that the delay in the adoption process may have due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The problem that Covid-19 is bringing is that social reports – which are a requirement for the adoption process – because there are field investigations that are not being done or are being stopped, because social workers are afraid of launching into the street or because people are afraid of receiving people at home for evaluations or interviews, ”he said.
In Burgos’s opinion, the delay in the adoption processes may cause adoptive families to become discouraged, thinking that the process — which is already complex — becomes too long. “That in turn results in the minors being left without adopting because the chances that there may be a family willing to adopt them, then (decreases). The older the child grows, the less chance it has (of being adopted) ”, he added.
In that sense, he agreed with the director of Adfan, when mentioning that families seek to adopt new-born or young children because it has implications “in terms of attachment and in the management of the child recognizing that family as their own.” He stressed that to the extent that the process in court or social investigation is delayed, the risk of children leaving the “adoptable” category increases.
“On the other hand, circumstances change. Someone who wanted to adopt prior to Covid-19 and had started a process, perhaps became unemployed, or has to emigrate, or someone dies, because obviously the decision to adopt is altered. So it’s a whole chain. If one side is affected, everything else continues to be affected and the fact that children remain without being adopted is at risk, ”he stressed.
Call for adoption
For Sylvia Villafañe, president of the non-profit organization Adopta Ahora, which since 2018 has been dedicated to educating about the importance of adopting older children on the Island, “children are still waiting despite the pandemic.”
“It is important to us that the children in Puerto Rico are adopted here and that people do not go looking for children in other places. We know that there are many people in Puerto Rico who also want to adopt large children, because we have records, addresses, “said Villafañe, adding that” you cannot be afraid of adoption. “
He stressed that the group he represents is trying to encourage the population that it is not risky to adopt older children, and although he acknowledged that there has been progress, more efforts are always needed, especially in complex times like the current one.
“Right now we know that there must be a lack of progress in terms of adoption, because of access to government offices and others,” Villafañe said.
Meanwhile, Gerena Ríos emphasized that families interested in adopting a minor who is in the custody of the Department of the Family, must meet a series of requirements. The agency has the State Voluntary Adoption Registry (REVA), which includes the names of the minors whose permanency plan is the adoption and of the adopting parties, with updated information.
“Our team from the Substitute Care Units of the 10 regions that comprise the Department of the Family has continued to work, first remotely and from the changes in the executive orders we have been modifying to an alternate face-to-face and remote system. So we have kept working from day one. All permanence plans have been given continuity, including the adoption plan ”, he highlighted.