Having an adopted child means creating a space that is first and foremost welcoming inside your family, given that the child comes from a distant reality, was generated by other people, with his or her own life story and in need of continuing life with his or her new parents, who will offer the child a new outlook on life. It is an articulated path, but in many ways, it may prove to be a dynamic journey. International adoption allows a family to welcome a minor from another country, with a different culture, language, and traditions, and make them become part of the family. An experience with many obstacles to overcome, such as the disarming bureaucracy in some States. We talked with Luisa Capponcini, an expert of the Commission for International Adoptions.
Capponcini, what pushes a couple to adopt a foreign child?
“They adopt children from foreign countries because the number of applications of aspiring adoptive families exceeds that of Italian abandoned children who are adoptable.”
Why is it becoming increasingly difficult to resort to international adoption?
“The existing economic situation in several foreign countries is improving, generally speaking, compared to a few decades ago. Foreign authorities, therefore, prefer domestic adoption, trying to keep within their borders children to be given up for adoption. This happens also due to one of the fundamental principles of The Hague Convention of 1993, ratified in Italy by the Law 476/98, which considers international adoption to be the last resort.”
Licensed entities and many family associations complain about a paralysis of the system. Why is that?
“The Italian economic crisis of recent years has resulted in a declining number of prospective adoptive couples, since international adoptions have a high cost and, sometimes, Italian citizens cannot afford them. Moreover, authorized agencies, non-profit organization have to bear the costs, with reference to the specialized staff, to the offices in Italy and abroad, the cost of the journey and the couple staying in the foreign country that often requires long time, up to 45 days, as it happens in Brazil.”
Bureaucratic slowness discourages prospective parents. Can this push people to use illegal channels?
“Absolutely not. Adoptions, be they domestic or international, are a time-honored process at present. It would be unthinkable to introduce a minor in our country. It is unthinkable.”
Unfortunately, at times children are not completely healthy. Are their adoptive parents aware of their health conditions?
“Foreign countries, especially the facilities where children available for adoption are housed are obliged to provide all the data concerning these children, including data on their health status. Authorized Institutions in Italy require medical records and communicate them to the parents. Compared to past years, it happens more frequently that minors in international adoption have some disease or illness, mostly curable, but the family has to be aware of them.”
Do social services carry out controls of some kind when a child becomes part of a new family?
“The law provides that the child who arrived to Italy and was placed (by way of pre-adoptive one-year custody or adoption) in the foster family, is under the observation of the Social Services. The whole family can be supported and monitored. In fact, it would be more correct to refer to it as ‘support’ instead of ‘control’. This may be necessary because parents, especially at the beginning, need to have a valid reference in the services, but also for the foreign authorities, which often require reports every six month to confirm that the children have been matched to a parental couple with “resources and expertise.
There are families who adopt a foreign child then change their mind?
“Unfortunately there are cases of adoptive failures and their number is growing. In my opinion, there are different reasons for it. The age of the children adopted internationally has increased, hence their past sufferance are longer and deeper. Sometimes, the aspiring adoptive couple is unprepared and underestimates the needs of the child, sticking to the idealized child because of their need to have a child at any cost instead of adapting to the real child. Today, the law focuses on the best interests of the child to have the satisfaction of the parents, and not that of the couple to fulfill its desire for motherhood and fatherhood”.
In case of re-thinking, does the State protect the child or sends him or her back to their country of origin?
“If the Juvenile Court does not declare the suspension or revocation of the parental responsibilities towards the child and does not appoint a Tutor, and the child actually shows deviant and irregular conduct, which cannot be attributed to the parents’ inadequacy, it is possible to entrust the child to the social services and send him or her to an educational or rehabilitating institution, even until the child reaches 21 years of age.”