The call came on Monday, December 7, 2020. Fernando Pagnone and Beatriz Rivas Leal thought it was part of the daily monitoring of the adoption process that they had started in June 2018. But it wasn’t, this time they had news: on Saturday they would receive their son. He was a boy who had been born on July 3rd.
“There is an episode in the sitcom Friends: Monica and Chandler receive a call informing them that they were going to be adoptive parents, there is no comparison. I didn’t feel fear… I can’t believe it”, says Rivas Leal, a 42-year-old Venezuelan naturalized Mexican.
“Humanity’s most painful year would be my happiest year”.
In Mexico, the Covid-19 pandemic stopped many things, but the adoptions of Mexican minors were not affected. Those, on the contrary, increased. Data from the Federal Attorney for the Protection of Children and Adolescents (PFPNNA) indicate that the procedures concluded by the DIF National System increased 329%: they went from seven in 2019 to 23 in 2020.
These figures do not take into account those registered by state prosecutors’ offices, which carry out their own adoption processes. Their latest available data reveals that from May 2019 to the same month of 2020 they completed 865 adoptions.
“We have not stopped any process and had to adapt our process to this new situation that we are living“, says Dulce María Mejía, Managing Director of Protection and Restitution of Rights of the PFPNNA, dependent on the National System for the Integral Development of the Family, in an interview with La-Lista.
Procedures in pandemic
The national adoption process, which implies that the minor live in Mexico, consists of at least 13 points.
Some of them consist on going to the prosecutor’s office to request the registration form for the induction course; deliver the file to the adoption area; participate in assessments, interviews and home visits, and receive notification from the Technical Adoption Committee.
Most had to be done in person at the dependency facilities.
For the international adoption process, that means that the minor will live in another country, the applicants must comply with 24 steps, including face-to-face meetings to evaluate their compatibility with the assigned minor.
“It is a battle, it is following up, it is a sui generis process. American families, for example, are often not encouraged by all these implications and because of the difficulties”, details Arturo Rodríguez, a lawyer in the United States specialized in immigration and international adoptions. “Because there comes a time in the process in which applicants have to live certain weeks, maybe months, in Mexico”.
To facilitate procedures during the health emergency, the Attorney General’s Office incorporated electronic means, such as videoconferencing platforms and sending documents via email.
“Before the pandemic, our adoption applicants had to come to the offices, now we do a videoconference and we explain everything they need to know about the adoption procedure”, Mejía describes.
“The documents can also be forwarded to us by email in order to review them and avoid crowds or prevent them from coming more than the time they are going to integrate their file”.
They seem like logical steps to incorporate technology, but until March 2020 they were not considered in the adoption application process. Today its implementation is seen as a great achievement within the attorney general’s office.
The official highlights that even the adoption committee sessions, where it is decided whether or not to issue a certificate of suitability to adopt, have been held by videoconference. And the requirements section of the website of the National DIF System has facilitated the work.
“It establishes the requirements that our legislation and guidelines ask for terms of adoptions, and integrate their file quickly and efficiently”.
Adoptions in Mexico during the pandemic
Despite this forced lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the DIF National System still lacks a national registry of adoptions that let us know, almost in real time and with transparency, the pace of adoptions, the waiting time between applications and the completed procedures, the institutions that manage the requests and the states that carry out procedures.
Mejía anticipates that the launch of this system will take place at the end of February.
“Each one of the state protection agencies will have a password and a unique registry that will feed the entire macro system to give an appropriate response and let know how many children and adolescents are eligible for adoption in the country, how many adoption processes have been concluded, and all that data”.
The other pending issue is the simplification of procedures that allows –as indicated in article 26 of the General Law of the Rights of Children and Adolescents– that the adoption process is expeditious, agile, simple, and guided by a higher interest:
The one of more than 960 minors who, until last May, were eligible for adoption.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara