Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adoption Meeting in Iquique

The week before Christmas Pedro and I had the opportunity to attend an informational meeting on adoption through our region's branch of SENAME here in Iquique. It was a very positive experience and we were especially thrilled that a married couple from our church chose to attend as well. They are trying to determine if God is speaking to them about adoption and we look forward to seeing what He may have in store for their family!

If you have been reading this blog for a few years you might recall another informational meeting we attended with SENAME in Santiago. Actually, several meetings were required and the final outcome was far from encouraging to us at the time. I wrote in length about that experience (see links below.)
SENAME Santiago Experience, Part One
SENAME Santiago Experience, Part Two
Thoughts on SENAME Santiago Experience, Part Two
SENAME Santiago Experience, Part Three
SENAME Santiago Experience, Part Four
Well, I am happy to report that our experience in Iquique could not have been more different - in a very good way - than our previous one in the capital! In fact, I took the liberty of writing to the two people who led the seminar to express this to them and was rewarded by their sincere thanks for taking the time to share positive feedback.

For the record, I am quite sure they are more accustomed to criticism than encouragement because the national media never seems to miss an opportunity to splash any missteps on the front of local newspapers. Feelings run high about this agency because it is literally the ONE AND ONLY approving agency for couples who wish to adopt. (Although in the capital city of Santiago there are a few other "private" agencies, even they must be approved by SENAME in order to process adoptions.) There is generally a begrudging feeling toward the agency and from listening to personal comments over the past three and a half years, it seems most Chileans give up on adopting through SENAME before truly giving it a try.

For those in Santiago, I can't say I blame them. In a nutshell our experience was this: No one answered our e-mails. No one would respond to questions over the phone. We were required to take time off work for multiple training sessions before being allowed to speak to someone one-on-one. The sessions held 150+ hopeful people wishing to adopt. The information provided seemed designed to weed out all but the most tenacious applicants due to its overall discouraging tone. When the sessions were over, everyone was told to secure an interview date with the social worker but many had to wait weeks if not months for her to even have an opening!

Quite in contrast, the meetings in Iquique are held monthly. Only one meeting is required, and the session is hosted in a small but comfortable room around a conference table. Approximately six couples were in attendance at our session and a man and woman led the PowerPoint presentation which provided pertinent information. Questions were encouraged and answered honestly and politely. Rather than being discouraging to potential adoptive parents, the information aimed at being truthful and accurate but also hopeful and welcoming. And at the end of the session participants were invited to immediately meet with the secretary to secure an interview date for that very week if they so desired.

I have pages of information that I could share, but in a nutshell it was thrilling to hear that 20-23 adoptions are completed in our region every year. This might not sound like much until you consider that Iquique has a population of only 200,000 compared to Santiago's nearly 6 million - and the Santiago branch of SENAME apparently completes less than 30 adoptions annually.

Another positive is that the group of individuals spearheading the adoption department for SENAME in Iquique have worked diligently to establish open lines of communication with local hospitals in order to provide detailed medical histories for each adopted child (whereas before children were placed with merely a blank sheet as far as their medical background was concerned.)

In addition, training is required and provided for adoptive parents to tell their children their story of adoption in a positive way. While this may sound like a given to us, historically in Chile children were physically "matched" with their adoptive families and the truth that they were adopted was often kept hidden. The fact that full disclosure is now required is a huge step in the right direction for Chilean adoptions. While we did not necessarily agree with the timeframe - the agency said between ages 4 and 6, while we believe their stories should be shared from their very first day in the family - we fully agree with this new requirement.

It was no surprise that in Chile the greatest need is for families open to children ages 3 years old and older and willing to adopt sibling groups. It is very important to Chile that the majority of their adoptions be national ones, with Chilean couples and foreigners with permanent residence in Chile being given priority. However, in the case of older children and sibling groups SENAME has encountered difficulty in finding Chilean homes and so many of these children go to adoptive families in Europe. (In fact, even during the course of our presentation a Skype notification kept appearing from an adoptive family in Holland!)

What, you might ask, was our purpose in going to this meeting? Are we adopting again? The answer to the latter question depends on which of us you ask (ha!) but the answer to the former is simple. We are approached so often with adoption questions that we felt it was important for us to obtain the correct and current information from our region in order to answer these questions and hopefully be a voice for adoption in Iquique.

It our dream to see Chilean Christians begin to catch the vision for adoption. It is our dream to be able to bless others financially as we ourselves were blessed, and to walk beside others in their journey as a result of the journey we ourselves have walked. At this very moment we can think of four or five couples who've had the seed planted in their hearts, but none are yet at the commitment stage.

It is a big step to add to your family in a country which has bought into the belief that any more than two children are a financial impossibility. In addition the myth that "blood is thicker than water" has yet to be fully dispelled here. But we are hopeful and prayerful that God has something great in store in the area of adoption in Chile.

And we can't wait to see who will respond first to His voice!

1 comment:

Anna and David said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Our experiences with Iquique SENAME have been purely positive. They were very truthful with time frames and costs and they accompanied us the entire way. It's hard to believe that this is the same agency so many complain about in Santiago.