The right of children to be children
To think of childhood as a different stage in a person’s life is a fairly recent concept; in Colombia this term began to be used in the early twentieth century (Jaramillo, 233). Before that, children were considered small adults, who had to assume quite complex responsibilities for their age. However, despite the passage of time, the reality for thousands of children remains the same, and in many cases they find themselves in the sad and heartbreaking situation of living through experiences -violent and traumatic- for which they do not yet have the necessary tools or maturity to be able to deal with. These events will determine their lives, in many cases continuing eternal spirals of generational trauma and a present characterized by an emotional void.
The armed conflict that Colombia has lived through for more than fifty years has greatly affected the civilian population, with the poor being the most affected, among them those who have experienced the conflict directly. Thousands of peasants, indigenous communities and Afro-descendant population who have been dispossessed of their land and have been forced to flee their own territories. Many of them have settled in the country’s large cities, facing an urban of that is unkind and selfish.
As a result of decades of rural and urban violence, the family institution has been one of the most affected, with cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, neglect, physical and psychological mistreatment, among others. In many cases, it is evident to see how this violence has been transmitted from generation to generation, with children being the most affected actors, and those who must be legally and emotionally protected from dangers or threats to their integrity.
The law, adoption, and children’s rights
The Code of Childhood and Adolescence in Colombia, the highest law that defends the rights of children, establishes that it is the obligation of the family to promote and guarantee their rights, as well as the responsibility that civil society and the State must assume to guarantee their development and protection. Faced with the impossibility of remaining in their biological family, the Colombian State has sought ways to ensure that millions of children and adolescents can exercise their right to live and grow up in a family that can provide them with the love, tools, and support they need to develop in a healthy environment that guarantees all the rights granted by national and international laws.
In this way, adoption has grown to become a very important step in the process of restoring the rights of minors, who through their adoptive family can have the possibility to heal their wounds, to believe in love again, to be heard, to have a dignified and full life, to go to school, to develop talents and skills, to play and practice sports, to grow up physically and mentally healthy: the right to be a child.
Adoption in Colombia has undergone countless changes, as any social process has presented flaws and problems, however, the institutions that compose it with the passage of time try to do the best with the few resources they have and always looking after the best interests of the children. Currently, international adoption is a fundamental mechanism to guarantee the rights of children, since not being able to be reunited with their family of origin or not being adopted by other Colombian families, the possibility of growing up in a healthy and free environment is limited. In this way, foreign families play an important role, becoming an agent of change, who through their support and accompaniment are committed to make their rights a reality.
With the help of the ICBF (Colombian Institute of Family Welfare), the IAPAS (Institutions Authorized by the State to carry out adoption processes), external organizations such as KidSave, Project 143, and Hague accredited adoption agencies, the construction of international adoptive families is a reality. Currently, various types of children are available for adoption, including children under ten years of age with special needs, children over ten years of age, and sibling groups of different ages. We facilitate adoptions with the families who contact us directly to wait for a child referral and we support the adoption of children who participate in the hosting program.
Nightlight in Colombia
Nightlight Christian Adoptions was legally established in Colombia in 2015, finalizing the first adoption in 2017. To date we have carried out 121 adoptions, supporting the construction of new families in different states across the U.S. and even working with American families living abroad.
Through the Waiting Child list, which is organized directly by the ICBF’s sub-direction of adoptions, we have found twenty-eight families for forty-eight children. Likewise, with the joint support of KidSave and its hosting abroad program, we have been able to ensure that forty-five children were guaranteed their right to have a family. The number of families that have decided to grow through adoption fills us with joy and pride and motivates all our team to continue working so that thousands of Colombian children can live in a loving and resilient family nucleus.
Our work is characterized by the fact that we work for the children, regardless of the case, and we advocate equally for all children regardless of the complexity of their life history or special needs. We support the children, even in cases where we do not have a family yet for them, through therapeutic processes such as EMDR and cultural and recreational activities.
During the process in Colombia, we closely guide the families, not only with the legal procedures that are required, but we also support them emotionally, where we listen to the children and the adoptive parents, we solve issues, we offer suggestions, we laugh and cry together. For this reason we invite all those who will soon travel to Colombia to carry out their integration process and legal paperwork to enjoy the process, to make the most of learning about the place where their children come from, to allow themselves to explore other identities, and to embrace the new culture that will incredibly transform their lives forever.
Any families that apply to adopt from Colombia in the month of December will receive a $500 grant toward their adoption fees.
Código de Infancia y la Adolescencia. [CIA]. Law 1098, 2006. November 8, 2006. (Colombia)
Jaramillo, C E. (2007) Los guerreros invisibles. El papel de los niños en los conflictos civiles del siglo XIX en Colombia. In P. Rodriguez, M E Mannarelli (Ed), Historia de la infancia en América Latina (pp.233-243). Universidad Externado de Colombia.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20, 1989, https://www.ohchr.org/en